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Fatty acids help brain function

Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the antioxidant asthaxanthin helped improve memory and attention and delay mental decline (cognitive impairment) in two new studies.

Japanese researchers gave 21 patients with mild cognitive impairment (average age 68; 9 females and 12 males) a 240 mg combination of omega-3 (docosa-hexaenoic acid or DHA) and omega-6 (arachidonic acid or ARA) fatty acids plus 0.96 mg of asthaxanthin in six 40.16 mg capsules per day or a placebo for 90 days.

Ten of the subjects had prior brain injury—lesions due to hemorrhage or trauma—and eight had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The scientists measured mental function at the start and end of the study and found that brain injury patients who had taken the supplements had significantly improved immediate and delayed memory and significantly increased attention, while AD patients who had taken supplements, and those in the placebo group, had not improved significantly. Doctors said the results suggest that omega-3, omega-6 and asthaxanthin can improve cognitive function in the aged and in those with brain lesions.

In October 2006, Swedish researchers reporting in the Archives of Neurology randomly gave 174 AD patients with very mild, OR mild or moderate cognitive impairment 1,700 mg of DHA plus 600 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) per day or a placebo for six months. When researchers measured results for the entire group, there were no significant differences between treatment and placebo.

However, in a subset of 32 AD patients with very mild cognitive impairment, those who had taken omega-3s had significantly less mental decline compared to those who had taken the placebo. After six months, the entire placebo group switched to the omega-3 treatment and all participants continued for a second six month period. Doctors found that those with very mild cognitive impairment who had switched to omega-3 from placebo had significantly less mental decline in the second six month period compared to the first six months. 

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