'Insufficient evidence' of a link between omega-3’s vascular and cognitive benefits

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

More research is needed to determine if omega-3 supplementation's brain and blood vessel benefits are connected. ©iStock
More research is needed to determine if omega-3 supplementation's brain and blood vessel benefits are connected. ©iStock

Related tags Essential fatty acid Cognition

There is insufficient evidence that the cognitive benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are directly linked to its separate ability to help lower blood pressure, according to a review from the University of Newcastle in Australia.

While omega-3 intake has been credited with cardiovascular and cognitive benefits, it is unclear if omega-3 supplementation’s positive effect on brain function is connected to its ability to lower blood pressure.

As such, researchers have tried to determine the effects of omega-3 supplementation on blood vessels and the brain, as well as to identify missing information and offer tips for future intervention studies. The review found that omega-3 supplementation has separate beneficial effects on both blood vessels and the brain.

Published studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation “seems to benefit mostly men and individuals with chronic diseases”​. It also benefits “women and individuals suffering from mild cognitive impairment, although these appear restricted to certain cognitive domains”​.

Controlled trials

Additionally, previous studies have found a possible link between blood vessel dysfunction and cognitive impairment.

However, it is still not known if omega-3 supplementation helps to improve brain function by decreasing blood pressure and therefore, enhancing cerebral blood flow.

The results of controlled intervention trials studying the effect of omega-3 supplementation on the brain were inconsistent, and the specifics of how omega-3 fatty acids improve cognitive function were still unclear. The inconsistencies could be attributed to differences between study populations, like gender, age, health status, and omega-3 intake.

Processing speed

Furthermore, while 59% of the studies showed that omega-3 supplementation led to improved cognitive function, “the improvements were limited to certain cognitive domains such as information processing speed, executive function, recognition and recall memory”​.

The review concluded that “further research is needed to determine”​ the target population groups, whether omega-3 fatty acids can improve blood flow to the brain, and if their positive effects on cerebrovascular responsiveness are accompanied by cognitive benefits.

 

Source: Nutrients

http://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050487

“Effects of Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Endothelial Vasodilator Function and Cognition — Are They Interrelated?”

Authors: Julia C Kuszewski, Rachel HX Wong, Peter RC Howe

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