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”.
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.
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.
“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