Diet Low in Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Cause Brain to Age Faster

Posted on February 29, 2012

Researchers have found that a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients commonly found in fish, may cause the brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and thinking abilities. They study was published in the print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, 1,575 people with an average age of 67 and free of dementia underwent MRI brain scans. They were also given tests that measured mental function, body mass and the omega-3 fatty acid levels in their red blood cells.

The researchers found that people whose DHA levels were among the bottom 25% of the participants had lower brain volume compared to people who had higher DHA levels. Participants with levels of all omega-3 fatty acids in the bottom 25% also scored lower on tests of visual memory and executive function, such as problem solving and multi-tasking and abstract thinking.

Study author Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, of the Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research and the Division of Geriatrics, University of California at Los Angeles, said in a statement, "People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging."