In one of the largest and longest studies of its kind, researchers examined whether supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids helped to slow cognitive decline in older patients. Omega-3 supplements are available over the counter and are often labeled as supporting brain health. Findings were published in JAMA.

Previous research has suggested that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect on the brain. In this large clinical trial conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over 40,00 patients were followed over a five-year period.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), lead by Dr. Emily Chew, MD, established that daily high doses of certain antioxidants and minerals – called the AREDS formulation – can help slow the progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

A later study, called AREDS2, tested the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to the AREDS formula. All participants had early or intermediate AMD. They were 72 years old on average and 58% were female. They were randomized to one of the following groups:

  • Placebo
  • Omega-3 [specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 350mg) and eicosapentaenoic acid (650mg)]
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin 
  • Omega-3 and Lutein/zeaxanthin