Dementia is one of the most dreaded diseases for its lack of a cure and a little understanding of what really happens in the brain. Thus, many people are turning their attention to supplements such as omega-3 for reduction of risk or even prevention. However, a new study suggests omega-3 doesn't stop cognitive decline.
In a press release by the National Institutes of Health, deputy director of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications Division and lead author of AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) Emily Chew, there's no solid evidence to back up the popular health claim.
The study, which is now available in JAMA, is an offshoot of a related study known as AREDS2. This one focuses on the effects of supplements including omega-3 for the prevention or slow progression of age-related macular degeneration. Based on that study, they found out that the supplement itself doesn't have any benefit, but supplementing the diet with food rich in the same fatty acid may help.
In this new study, the researchers worked with AMD patients who have an average age of 72 years old. More than half of the participants were female.
Each participant is then randomly selected to take a placebo, omega-3, zeaxanthin and lutein, and omega-3 with lutein or zeaxanthin. Further, since they already have AMD, which may become worse, the participants also had the option to have the previous AREDS formulation, which was without lutein/zeaxanthin or omega-3.
The participants went through tests to test their cognitive function, especially in the areas of recall, processing speed, and memory. The first test was conducted prior to the actual start of the study. Then follow-up examinations were carried out after 2 then 4 years.
Based on the results, regardless of the time they spent taking the supplements, the participants experienced cognitive decline over the years.
Despite the results, the team believes more studies have to be undertaken as the time the supplements have been consumed may also indicate whether they're truly beneficial or not.