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).
Long 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.
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
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.
also found that cardiometabolic risk markers such as systolic blood pressure
and triglycerides reduced significantly in the test group.
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.