Omega-3 fatty acids related to brain health

A new study is suggesting that people with low levels of Omega 3 fatty acids have brains with less volume compared with people who have higher levels of the same fatty acids.

The New York Times reports, “Low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with smaller brain volume and poorer performance on tests of mental acuity, even in people without apparent dementia, according to a new study” published in the journal Neurology.

Researchers “examined 1,575 dementia-free men and women whose average age was 67” and “analyzed the fatty acids of the subjects’ red blood cells,” then “used an MRI scan to measure brain volume and white matter hyperintensities, a radiological finding indicative of vascular damage.”

They found that subjects “in the lowest one-quarter for omega-3 levels had significantly lower total cerebral brain volume” and “performed significantly worse on tests of visual memory, executive function and abstract memory than those in the highest one-quarter.”

Medscape reports, “After adjusting for age, sex, and time interval, those patients with” red blood cell docosahexaenoic acid (RBC DHA) “levels in the lowest quartile (Q1, <3.9%) had significantly lower total brain volume (P = .009) and significantly greater white matter hyperintensity volume (P = .049), compared with those patients with higher RBC DHA levels (Q2 – Q4, >3.9%). The association persisted for total brain volume in the fully adjusted multivariable analysis (P = .019).”

HealthDay cautions that the research “did not prove that omega-3 fatty acids prevent mental decline, merely that there may be an association between consumption of fatty acids and brain health.”

WebMD reports, “Previous studies have already shown that people who eat a diet high in fatty fish like salmon and tuna have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Researchers say these results may help explain why.”

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