1. Higher blood levels of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids were associated with larger total and hippocampal brain volumes in post-menopausal women eight years later.
2. No association was found between omega-3 blood levels and ischemic brain lesion volume.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: In this study, researchers found that higher blood levels of two marine omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, were associated with both larger hippocampal and total brain volumes. Strengths include a long follow-up time (8 years) and the use of red blood cell levels of DHA and EPA for exposure ascertainment, a measure that minimizes variability in metabolism. Additional research is merited to determine associations between omega-3 supplements with functional outcomes, like dementia severity, and assess causality.
Relevant Reading: Structural brain changes in aging
In-Depth [prospective study]: Researchers measured red blood cell levels of two marine omega-3 fatty acids–eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—in 1,111 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Primary outcomes include MRI-assessed total brain volume at a median of eight years after blood draw.
In an adjusted model, one standard deviation of DHA/EPA level was associated with a 2.1 cm3 larger total brain volume (p=0.048) and 50 mm3 larger hippocampal volume (p=0.036). Compared with the first quartile of omega-3 levels, the fourth quartile was associated with a 159 mm3 greater hippocampal volume (p=0.034). There was no association between ischemic lesion volume and omega-3 levels.
By Maren Shapiro and Leah Hawkins, MD, MPH
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