Regular use of fish oil supplements (FOS) was associated with a significant reduction in cognitive decline and brain atrophy in older adults, according to a study published early online ahead of the print edition of the journalAlzheimer’s & Dementia.[1]

The study examined the relationship between FOS use and indicators of cognitive decline during the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)

“At least 1 person is diagnosed every minute with Alzheimer’s disease and despite best efforts, we have not yet found a cure for this pervasive and debilitating disease,” said principal investigator Lori Daiello, PharmD, Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island. “The field is currently engaged in numerous studies to find better treatments for people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease; however, researching ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or slow cognitive decline in normal aging is of utmost importance.”

In the retrospective study, older adults involved in the ADNI study were assessed with neuropsychological tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every 6 months. The group included 229 older adults who were cognitively normal, 397 who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and 193 with Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that fish oil supplement use during the study was associated with significantly lower rates of cognitive decline as measured by the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog), and the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), but this benefit was observed only for the group of participants without dementia at the time of enrolment.

“Additionally, serial brain imaging conducted during this study showed that the participants with normal cognition who reported taking fish oil supplements demonstrated less brain shrinkage in key neurological areas, compared with those who did not use the supplements,” said Daiello.

The positive findings on cognitive testing and brain MRI were only observed in persons who did not carry the APOE-4 gene. “More research is needed, but these findings are promising and highlight the need for future studies to expand the current knowledge of the effects of FOS use on cognitive aging and AD.


[1] Daiello LA, Gongvatana A, Dunsiger S, Cohen RA, Ott BR; Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Association of fish oil supplement use with preservation of brain volume and cognitive function. Alzheimers Dement. 2014 Jun 18. View Abstract