Even healthy young people can improve their memory by increasing their omega-3 intake, research finds.
The six-month study showed that omega-3 supplements increased people’s working memory.
Professor Bita Moghaddam, a study author, said:
“Before seeing this data, I would have said it was impossible to move young healthy individuals above their cognitive best.
We found that members of this population can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game.”
Working memory is vital to holding pieces of visual, verbal or other information in your mind while you manipulate them.
Better working memory has been linked to improved learning, attention and other vital outcomes.
Dr Matthew Muldoon, a study co-author, said:
“So many of the previous studies have been done with the elderly or people with medical conditions, leaving this unique population of young adults unaddressed.
But what about our highest-functioning periods?
Can we help the brain achieve its full potential by adapting our healthy behaviors in our young adult life?
We found that we absolutely can.”
The team were also hoping to find the mechanism in the brain that was linked to the improvement in working memory.
Unfortunately brain scans did not reveal evidence of the mechanism they were looking for.
Dr Rajesh Narendarn, the study’s first author, said:
“It is really interesting that diets enriched with Omega-3 fatty acid can enhance cognition in highly functional young individuals.
Nevertheless, it was a bit disappointing that our imaging studies were unable to clarify the mechanisms by which it enhances working memory.”
Suggested fish oil supplements
Participants in the study took a supplement called Lovaza (essentially, fish oil or omega-3) at a dosage of 2g per day.
The supplement had roughly equal amounts of DHA and EPA.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE (Narendran et al., 2012).