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Study: Omega-3 Intake May Reduce Brain Aging in Older Women

Higher fatty acid levels linked to larger brain volume (January 22)

In a new study conducted at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, older women with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had slightly less brain shrinkage than women with low fatty acid levels.

The findings were published in Neurology.

The authors investigated whether red blood cell (RBC) levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids measured in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study were related to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain volumes measured 8 years later.

RBC eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and MRI brain volumes were assessed in 1,111 postmenopausal women from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. The endpoints were total brain volume and anatomical regions.

The researchers found that a 1 standard deviation (SD) greater RBC EPA + DHA (omega-3 index) level was correlated with 2.1 cm3 larger brain volume (P = 0.048). DHA was only marginally correlated (P = 0.063) with total brain volume, and EPA was less so (P = 0.11).

There were no correlations between ischemic lesion volumes and EPA, DHA, or EPA + DHA.

A 1-SD greater omega-3 index was also correlated with greater hippocampal volume (50 mm3; P = 0.036).

The investigators concluded that a higher omega-3 index was linked to larger total normal brain volume and hippocampal volume in postmenopausal women. In their opinion, while normal aging results in overall brain atrophy, a lower omega-3 index may signal increased risk of hippocampal atrophy.

Source: Neurology; January 22, 2014.

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