A recent study investigating fish oil, omega 3 and neurological degradation has concluded that supplementation may not be as beneficial as previously thought.
The study was carried out on senior citizens affected by the first stage of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a retinal disease associated with the death of brain cells. The study found no significant difference between the effects of omega 3 on the brain and those of a placebo.
The 3,500 participants were separated into two groups. One group received a dietary supplement that included two types of omega-3 fatty acids. The other group received inactive sugar pills, without any of the senior citizens knowing the content of the pill received. Their cognitive ability was assessed regularly over a period of five years.
Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to slow down some of the neurological effects associated with ageing. They do so by improving the integrity of soft tissue, but as Emily Chew of the National Eye Institute concludes:
“Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t see any benefit of omega-3 supplements for stopping cognitive decline,”
The authors of the study admit that the lack of positive results might be associated with the advanced age of the participants. Study participants had an average age of 73 years old.
Elizabeth Johnson, a researcher on the role of antioxidants on brain and eye health at Tuft University, points out the importance of synergy between different nutrients in obtaining beneficial health effects.
Her studies show that omega-3 might have a positive effect on cognitive degradation in the elderly. This effect is best noticed when associated with lutein and other oxidants. The market offers multiple dietary supplements consisting of both omega-3 fatty acids and lutein. She highlights food as the best way of administering these two nutrients.
Omega-3 is commonly found in sea-food, particularly oceanic fish and the oil it produces (just picture a can of sardines), while green vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage are the best source of lutein.
The study doesn’t disprove the other health benefits potentially provided by omega-3. There is evidence that points out to a diet of sea-food (in excess of eight ounces per week) diminishing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, it is still advisable for women to consume foods rich in omega-3 during pregnancy, for facilitating the fetus’ brain development. However, according to the FDA, great care must be taken to avoid sea-food fished in areas known for a high concentration of mercury.
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