Omega-3 supplementation has the potential to delay the cardiometabolic risk factors and improve associated cognitive functions in healthy middle aged and elderly people, suggests a new research published in the Nutrition Journal.
Cardiometabolic disorders are associated with higher risk of cognitive decline, for example, decrease in memory, attention and overall executive functioning. The American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology Foundation define cardiometabolic risk as 'a high lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) caused by factors such as obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and dyslipoproteinemia (abnormal concentrations of lipoproteins such as LDL, HDL, and triglycerides in the blood)'. It includes metabolic syndrome along with smoking and glucose in the diabetic range (and not just prediabetic range).
AdvertisementLong chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), viz. omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for optimal brain function and mental health. Various studies have shown n-3 PUFA to have beneficial effects on cognitive domains. Similarly, other studies suggest that long chain n-3 PUFA interventions lower high blood pressure and triglycerides and improve glucose metabolism, which are metabolic risk factors.
However, controlled intervention trials of the effect of n-3 PUFA on cognitive functions are scarce. So, Anne Nilsson and her colleagues from Lund University, Sweden, took up a study to evaluate the effects of n-3 PUFA supplementation on cognitive performance in healthy middle aged to elderly subjects and also to relate cognitive outcome to cardiometabolic risk parameters.
Among the participants that included 28 healthy women and 10 healthy men aged 51 to 72 years with BMI ranging from 20 to 30, twenty two were elderly and only one was an occasional smoker. Twenty were included in the test group and the other 18 were in the control group. They were given fish oil (3g/day) or placebo for five weeks, respectively, separated by a five week washout period.
The test group showed significant improvement in cognitive functions. According to the researchers, since n-3 PUFA has several anti-inflammatory properties and chronic inflammation is linked to poorer cognitive functions, n-3 PUFA may be beneficial to cognitive functions due to a general anti-inflammatory effect.
The researchers also found that cardiometabolic risk markers such as systolic blood pressure and triglycerides reduced significantly in the test group.
The researchers thus concluded that preventive dietary approach such as omega-3 supplementation may combat both metabolic disorders as well as associated cognitive decline.
'The dietary prevention strategy should preferably include fish in quantities to supply sufficient amounts of PUFA, in addition to other food groups with potential metabolic benefits e.g. whole grain, low-glycemic index foods, fruits, berries, vegetables, and prebiotics', suggested the authors.
Nilsson A, Radeborg K, Salo I, Björck I. Effects of supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive performance and cardiometabolic risk markers in healthy 51 to 72 years old subjects: a randomized controlled cross-over study. Nutr J. 2012 Nov 22;11(1):99.