High Omega-3 Levels May Boost Cognitive Effects of B Vitamins

For those with high omega-3 levels, the effects of B vitamins may be enhanced
For those with high omega-3 levels, the effects of B vitamins may be enhanced

The efficacy of B vitamins in slowing mental decline in the elderly may be improved with having higher Omega-3 fatty acids. That's according to research conducted by an international team of professors from universities in Cape Town, Oslo, Oxford and the UAE. 

Researchers studied 250 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in Oxford, England. MCI, if left untreated, can progress to dementia. Before the start of the study, each subject was given a set of tests to measure their cognition and a blood test to determine levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 2 common omega-3 acids found in oily fish.They were then split into two groups; one given a B-vitamin supplement, and the other given a placebo. The two groups' cognitive performance was then monitored over 2 years.

RELATED: Increasing Omega-3 Intake May Benefit Patients at Risk for Alzheimer's Disease

For study subjects with low levels of omega-3, the vitamin supplements had little to no effect. However, for those with high baseline omega-3 levels, the effects of B vitamins were enhanced in preventing cognitive decline compared to placebo. These findings support previous research that showed rates of MCI brain atrophy slowing with B vitamins but only in individuals who already had high omega-3 levels. 

For all outcome measures, higher concentrations of DHA alone significantly enhanced the cognitive effects of B vitamins, while EPA appeared less effective, researchers added.

The authors appealed for further research to be conducted, to investigate whether a combination of B vitamins and omega-3 supplements could slow the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer's.

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