Brain Health: Omega-3 fatty acids slow brain shrinkage

New research is revealing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health, in particular, on reducing loss of brain volume associated with ageing. This recent news report (PubMed abstract not yet available), adds to previous work by measuring the level of O3 in the subjects red blood cells over a 3-month period and correlating it to total brain volume as measured on MRI. The study of 1,575 subjects compared the brain MRI scans of the 25% with the lowest level of O3 to the rest of the group. According to the WSJ:

… participants with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had slightly smaller brains and scored lower on memory and cognitive tests than people with higher blood levels of omega-3s. The changes in the brain were equivalent to about two years of normal brain aging…

The study is important because of its large size and because the subject’s O3 levels were measured instead of utilizing food diaries for an estimate of O3 intake. However, a more interesting, and perhaps revealing question would have been comparing the subjects in the lowest quartile to those in the highest quartile. This may have revealed omega-3 fatty acids provide an even greater protection from brain volume loss than the two years in the study.

Bottom line: To prevent or slow brain shrinkage, eat your fish or take an omega-3 supplement.

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Update 3/2/2012
Abstract of study published in Neurology