Hopes that fish oil could be a weapon in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease were dashed Tuesday. Results of clinical trials were released showing that omega-3 fatty acid supplements did not slow the mental deterioration of Alzheimer’s. People who eat a lot of fish tend to have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s, which raised hopes for omega-3 supplements as a natural therapy.
Omega-3 supplements fail to get results
Omega-3 fish oil was no more effective than a placebo in results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The double-blind study randomly assigned subjects with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease to take a daily dose of either an omega-3 fatty acid supplement or a placebo. Participants were monitored over 18 months. At the end of the study period scientists assessed the subjects’ cognitive ability and conducted MRI scans of their brains. There was no improvement in brain volume or cognitive ability in either group.
Study not the final word on fish oil for Alzheimer’s
Omega-3 fatty acids became a popular supplement for brain health after studies showing people from cultures with a diet rich in fish tend to suffer Alzheimer’s disease at a lower rate. Though the omega-3 study disproves that notion, it didn’t set out to prove whether fish oil may benefit brain health at a younger age. Studies have suggested that the seeds of dementia are planted decades before symptoms emerge. It could still be possible that taking omega-3 supplements years before Alzheimer’s hits may slow the descent into dementia.
Experts: Don’t get your hopes up
Earlier this year, a panel of experts on cognitive decline assembled by the National Institutes of Health said there is little evidence any popular Alzheimer’s therapies work. They based their conclusion on the fact that no rigorous scientific studies support programs such as memory training, avoiding saturated fats, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables or rigorous exercise. A lack of evidence for those approaches leaves the door slightly open, while evidence gained from the omega-3 study slams the door on fish oil for Alzheimer’s disease.