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Omega-3s May Boost Brain Function, While Omega-6s Lower It, Later in Life

A recent study suggests that higher blood levels of omega-3s may be associated with better executive function in mature adults. The same study found that higher omega-6 levels may be associated with the opposite effect.


Participants in the study included 1,404 people who took part in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study, which took place from 2004 to 2009 and included participants from 55 years old to just over 60. The researchers utilized trained interviewers to collect data on dietary intake for the previous 12 months, via questionnaire. They also measured erythrocyte and dietary polyunsaturated fatty-acid levels at the beginning of the study. They then compared those blood levels with 2-year scores on the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), as well as cognitive domain patterns from a range of tests and incidence of cognitive impairment.


The researchers found an association between higher levels of EPA, DHA, and DPA fatty-acids (omega-3’s) and better executive function. Higher levels of omega-6s were associated with poorer executive function, as well as lower scores on the MMSE.In addition, an association was found between higher levels of arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty-acid) in the blood and cognitive impairment was noted.


Researchers from the University of New Hampshire led the study. It was published on September 6, 2018, in Nutrients.


Because omega-3 fatty-acids are not found naturally in the human body, it is especially important to make sure that they are a part of your daily diet. Oily, dark fish such as tuna and salmon are high in omega-3s. For people who don’t like fish, consider taking a daily high-quality non-fish supplement that has been tested for purity and potency.


Omega-6 are also essential fatty acids that are not produced by the human body. While they may be beneficial in a limited amount, the American diet often contains too many omega-6s. Maintaining a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 is essential for good health.

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