Can Omega-3 Supplements Prevent Cognitive Decline?

They may, but only if combined with cognitive and physical training. This is the conclusion of a 3-year study from Toulouse, France, presented at the most recent Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease Conference. The lead author was Bruno Vellas, MD. Sixteen hundred and eighty people who reported subjective memory complaints were followed for 3 years. Cognitive training was to teach the use of adaptive strategies to solve everyday problems, such as using mnemonics to remember grocery lists. Physical training involved at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, mainly walking 30 minutes a day. Further, there was an at-home exercise plan that was reviewed and updated. Nutritional counseling was also done. Subjects also took a twice-daily, specially compounded combination of 400 mg of DHA and 112.5 mg of EPA. These are the components of omega-3 supplements.

Subjects were randomized to 1 of 4 arms: omega-3 supplements alone, placebo capsules alone, cognitive and physical training without supplements, and both training and supplements.

Patients taking supplements alone or placebo were similar in the rate of decline from baseline. Those in the training program, with or without supplements, had a significant improvement in cognitive score during the first year, less so in the second year but remained above baseline. The best outcome occurred in the training program plus omega-3 supplement group. Their test scores remained completely stable during the entire 3-year period.

The results of the study seem intuitive. The program is easy to implement.

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