Dorene Lebowitz has been taking supplements of omega-3 fish oil for ten years hoping to stay healthy and keep her mind sharp. "If it could possibly work then it's fine with me. I'd be delighted."
It's long been thought that the fatty acids found in fish and nuts are good for the brain, but a new review of past studies found older people who took omega-3 supplements did not score any better on thinking and memory tests than participants who took a placebo.
"This is a great shame. It would be lovely to find a solution for cognitive decline and demensia, and unfortunately, the evidence as it stands says it does not benefit cognitive funcition in older people," says study author Dr. Alan Dangour of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
But other experts say the studies weren't long enough and the patients weren't old enough.
"Those were young patients buy any standard, they were in their 60s, early 70s, today that's middle age," says Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein of North Shore-LIJ Health System.@
Omega 3 fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet and may provide heart benefits so even the study's authors recommend people continue to eat at least two servings of fish a week.
As for the fish oil supplements, the authors say it's up to the individual to make the decision. Dorene Lebowitz says she's not giving them up. "I've heard and read more positive things about it so I would continue it. It doesn't seem to have anything that could be harmful."
Doctors say diet, along with physical and mental activity will go a long way keeping the mind young.
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, herring and trout.