There are a number of illnesses associated with aging, with a great deal of interest in the deterioration of mental acuity because of illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. As people try to find ways to reduce the risks of cognitive decline, more companies are offering supplements and making claims that their products can help stave off mental deterioration. Omega-3 fatty acids is one of the additions that is often touted as being beneficial in protecting the brain from the effects of aging.
This is linked to the fact that studies have found it essential to the development of the prenatal and early childhood mental development. However, there is not nearly as much research on the effects omega-3 has on the adult brain (though it has been documented to be good for the heart). A review of data conducted in 2020 found that people 60 years old and up who took the acid maintained better cognitive abilities, but it is only an initial review. The World Health Organization did their own review in 2020, finding that it neither helped nor hurt the cognitive ability of seniors.
A Finnish study with over 2,500 middle aged and older participants found that it wasn’t necessarily the acid in fish that helped to reduce cognitive decline, but the people who consumed foods with more omega-3 in them, like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds did have a slower decline than those who don’t consume those foods as often. The reason why it appears to work better for some people is that those people have a genotype that makes them more likely to develop Alzheimer’s when they get older.
A Rush University study the previous year had a similar finding. Participants ate fish once a week and overtime, they had a slower decline than those who didn’t eat fish regularly, but only people with the genome APOE e4. This shows how different genetics affect how a person’s body processes food to optimize the effects of different foods. It also explains why the results vary between diverse reports. It’s possible that it is as beneficial as is made out to be, but the supplements containing omega-3 will not be as effective for everyone.
If you would like to get more details on what you can eat to help improve your mental acuity, check out Here’s What We Really Know about Omega-3s and Brain Health