Fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for prevention or treatment of cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer's disease in older adults – any news?

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Purpose of review

Twenty years of research indicates that fish and n-3 fatty acids (FAs), for example docosahexaenoic acid, may attenuate cognitive decline including Alzheimer's disease in older people. This review concerns reports during 2015–2016 in humans.

Recent findings

One prospective cohort study showed that seafood consumption was related to less neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in brain autopsies from elderly care residents. In a large 5-year intervention no effects on cognition could be shown either in n-3 FA supplemented or in control patients. Two meta-analyses in community-dwelling patients support preservation of cognition with higher fish intake. Older adults with memory complaints may improve cortical blood flow during memory challenges by n-3 FA supplementation. Recalculations from a report in Alzheimer's disease patients indicated a dose–response pattern between increments of serum n-3 FAs and cognitive improvement. Still, a Cochrane review (using three randomized control trials) concluded that n-3 FAs cannot provide any 6-month benefit in patients with mild/moderate Alzheimer's disease.


The accumulated knowledge indicates that healthy populations may have preventive benefits from fish and docosahexaenoic acid intake, like older adults with memory complaints/mild cognitive impairment, and maybe subgroups of patients with mild/moderate Alzheimer's disease may also show such benefits. Still, more studies are needed.

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