Scientists now believe that it’s possible to prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by supplementing our diets with natural omega-3 fatty acids. While we’re well aware that changes in our memory and cognitive function happen as a normal part of the aging process, these changes happen faster in people who have neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, so far researchers have been unable to find an effective treatment for either Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment. In light of this, scientists are constantly seeking new methods of treatment that will help people to maintain cognitive performance for as long as possible, or to find ways that will prevent the condition from developing in the first place.
Treatments that are aimed at long-term prevention need to be suitable for use by healthy older adults, and need to be easily integrated into the daily lives; and for that reason nutritional supplements offer the perfect solution. Currently, supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids are believed to directly affect the function of nerve cells. Based on this belief, a team of researchers at Charité’s Department of Neurology decided to see what effect omega-3 would have on the memory.
The study comprised two groups of participants; the people in the first group were each given a daily dose of 2,200 mg of omega-3 for a period of six months, while the people in the other group were simply given a placebo. The patients in group one showed greater improvements on an object location memory task than the patients who had a received a sunflower oil placebo. However, the researchers didn’t find any evidence of improvements in their performance when they were subjected to a verbal learning memory task.
The team, which was led by Dr. Nadine Külzow, believe that a long-term approach to prevention using dietary supplements, will prove to be effective in helping to preserve cognitive function in older adults. However, in order to prove their hypothesis, they need to carry out a larger clinical study. In the meantime they plan to investigate the effects of giving supplements containing a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B, and are currently looking for participants aged between 60 and 80 years of age with impaired memory, to take part in the trial.