Researchers at the Rhode Island Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center have found positive associations between fish oil supplements and cognitive functioning, as well as differences in brain structure between users and non-users of fish oil supplements — but only for those who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Their findings, part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), suggest possible benefits of fish oil supplements on brain health and aging.
The study compared cognitive functioning and brain atrophy for patients who reported routinely using these supplements to those who were not using fish oil supplements. The researchers found that the use of fish oil supplements was associated with better cognitive functioning. However, this association was significant only in those individuals who had a normal baseline cognitive function and in individuals who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease known as APOE4. This is consistent with previous research, the researchers said.
The researchers also found that there was a clear association between fish oil supplements and brain volume. Consistent with the cognitive outcomes, these observations were significant only for those who were APOE4 negative.
“In the imaging analyses for the entire study population, we found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking (cerebral cortex and hippocampus), as well as smaller brain ventricular volumes compared to non-users at any given time in the study,” said Lori Daiello, PharmD. ”In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements during the ADNI study compared to those who didn’t report using them.”
Their results were reported at the recent International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease, in Paris, France.