In the October 2006 Archives of Neurology, researchers reported that omega-3 fatty acids improved cognitive function in subjects with mild memory loss.
In this study, 204 patients with varying degrees of memory loss were randomized into two groups. One group received omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) consisting of 1,700 mg of DHA and 600 mg of EPA daily for six months. The other group received placebo. At the end of the six-month trial, all patients were put on omega-3 EFA's for an additional six months. A total of 174 patients completed the entire study.
It was found that for those with more advanced memory loss, omega-3 EFAs did not have any benefit. However, for patients with very mild memory loss, there was a significant reduction in memory decline for those supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. How omega-3 essential fatty acids were able to confer benefit was not clear to the authors, but they felt it may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the fish oil. They further postulated that those whose memory loss was too advanced could not be substantially assisted by the anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil.
Once cognitive function has been allowed to decline, it becomes increasingly difficult to reverse the decline. By the time advanced or severe memory loss has occured, most of the brain cells have died and cannot be revived. However, taking precautionary measures, such as supplementing with omega-3 essential fatty acids, may very well mean the difference between suffering memory loss or not.
Freund-Levi Y, Eriksdotter-Jönhagen M, Cederholm T, et. al. n-3 Fatty Acid Treatment in 174 Patients With Mild to Moderate Alzheimer Disease: OmegAD Study: A Randomized Double-blind Trial. Arch Neurol. 2006;63:1402-1408.