A new study has found that omega-3 supplements have no effect on stemming cognitive decline, as was previously believed. The NY Times reports that observational studies going back a decade have supported a booming omega-3 supplement industry on the back of claims that more omega-3 consumption causes stronger brain health. However, the study found no noticeable change in cognitive function compared to those on a placebo.
At the National Institutes for Health (NIH) in Washington DC, Dr. Emily Chew is the deputy director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications. She’s the lead author for the research project and study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). She explained how her team evaluated participants in the study every two years to try and identify an effect if any on the subjects consuming the extra omega-3.
The study included more than 3,500 participants with an average age of 73. Subjects were tracked and tested across a 5 year period in total.
Dr. Chew was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as having said in an interview that her team’s work “didn’t see any benefit.”
Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t see any benefit.
Her team’s work highlights the problem in suggesting a cause and effect relationship between omega-3 and cognitive function when perhaps there is merely a correlation between consumption of the essential fatty acid and one’s brain health.
While the study is a startling revelation for nutritionists and consumers alike, it exhibits limitations in its relatively short period of time and the age of its participants — notions which leave open the possibility of older people not being aided by omega-3 boosts, as their impact on brain function builds over greater lengths of time, on the order of decades.
In line with other hypotheses, it could even be said that foods rich in omega-3 need to be consumed for the positive effects of omega-3 to be felt, as opposed to reliance upon a pill that provides the critical fatty acid.