UK Biobank data suggests omega-3 supplements may prevent dementia

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© wildpixel / Getty Images
© wildpixel / Getty Images

Related tags omega-3 Fish oil Omega-3 fatty acid Epa Dha Dementia Cognitive function

Regular consumption of fish oil supplements may be associated with significant reductions in the risk of different types of dementia, according to analysis of over 200,000 people in the UK Biobank cohorts.

Fish oil supplements were associated with lower risks of incident dementia, incident vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and other dementia, according to data published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

On the other hand, no significant association was observed for incident Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists from Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.

“Our findings indicate that habitual use of fish oils would be beneficial for the prevention of dementia in the general population, mainly for vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and other dementia,” ​they wrote.

“These findings have clinical practice and public health implications for the improvement of cognition decline and the prevention of dementia​.”

Cognitive impairment

The study adds to the body of evidence supporting a potential role for omega-3 fatty acids to support cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia, particularly from epidemiological studies. Indeed, a 2016 meta-analysis of 21 cohort studies providing data from 181,580 people found that fish oil intake was associated with lower risks of cognitive impairment and incident dementia.

Data from randomized clinical trials have been less consistent, however, with some small studies reporting cognitive improvements, but larger studies not finding the same benefits.

The new study analysed data from the UK Biobank cohorts of 211,094 community-dwelling older people (over 60 years of age). In total, 83,283 of the participants were regular fish oil users at the start of the study.

“The present study, to our knowledge, is the first study with incident dementia as primary outcome measure to investigate the association of fish oil supplements with dementia prevention in real life settings of large-scale cohort,” ​wrote the researchers.

Over the course of the study – an average of 11.7 years – 5,274 people developed dementia, said the researchers, with 3,290 of these being people who were NOT fish oil users.

Crunching the numbers indicated that fish oil supplementation was associated with significant reductions in the risk of all-cause dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and other dementia.

 On the other hand, no associations with Alzheimer’s disease were reported.

“Our findings suggested that it is attractive to take fish oil into consideration for preventing vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia as potential options,” ​wrote the researchers.

“Consistent with our findings, previous study reported that fish oil consumption may play a role in suppressing dystrophic neurites formation through the reduction of tau hyperphosphorylation, and thus reduce the risk of frontotemporal dementia.

“Further clinical trials need to determine the effects of fish oil supplements for the prevention of vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia in clinical practice.”

Source: Frontiers in Neuroscience
Published online, doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.910977
“Associations of fish oil supplementation with incident dementia: Evidence from the UK Biobank cohort study”
Authors: Y. Huang et al.


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