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Home > Health Information > Health Concerns > Mood Disorders/Tension/Brain Health > Omega 3, Memory, & Problem Solving

Omega-3 Fish Oil's Effect on Memory & Problem Solving

Fish oil supplements are well reputed for having many positive health benefits for both the body and the brain. In many studies up to now, omega 3 supplements have been found to improve cognition, which is your brain's ability to perform certain tasks such as problem solving, decision making, and attention. Memory, both short and long term, is another aspect of cognition and it is also critical to maintain in order to reduce your risk of falling prey to old age mental decline. Poor memory is one of the key predictors of age related neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's and it has recently been found that fish oil supplements have a positive impact on memory and may therefore reduce the risk of contracting this terrible disease.

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

The study, carried out at the Rhode Island Hospital Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center, involved looking at a large body of data collected by the renowned ADNI study (Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative), which is a worldwide study comparing Alzheimer's patients' brains and cognitive function to individuals with normal cognitive function. Alzheimer's disease affects your memory primarily and during the course of the disease, which typically affects the elderly, short term memory is affected most drastically. This means that you may go from forgetting where you parked your car, to forgetting the way home, and even forgetting who your loved ones are. Although poor memory is thought to increase your risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease, genetic risks have also recently been identified, such as the geneApoE-4: those that carry this gene have a much higher risk of getting the disease.

The evidence

This omega 3 supplement study compared people with normal brain function with those with Alzheimer's disease as well as those with mild cognitive impairment or MCI, which is identified by a marked decline in cognitive function that is not severe enough to be characterized as full-blown Alzheimer's. Within these three groups there were subjects that took a fish oil supplement, or those that did not. Comparisons were made by carrying out tests of cognitive function, as well as measuring brain volumes (something that is associated with cognitive ability). It was found that for those with normal brains, a significant improvement in not only cognitive functions but also of brain volume was measured in the group taking fish oil supplements.

Should I be taking omega 3 fish oil supplement?

These findings showed a significant improvement in healthy individuals from taking omega 3 supplements, but these findings did not extend to the Alzheimer's disease or the mild cognitive impairment groups. In addition, those healthy individuals that possessed the genetic risk of the ApoE-4 gene - a predictor of Alzheimer's disease - did not show any marked improvement in either brain volume or cognitive ability. These findings are thought to be in no way conclusive, due to the very complex nature of cognitive decline with advancing age. As so many factors are thought to be involved in protecting the brain from Alzheimer's and memory loss in old age, it is often difficult to identify small effects. However, that there was a significant effect in those with healthy brains shows that taking omega 3 fish oil supplements, as well as maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of physical - and mental - exercise, could go a long way to preventing Alzheimer's in the future.


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