Omega-3 fatty acids related to cognitive status in older adults


Some cognitive abilities decline with aging. The most constant change is cognitive slowing, but other changes also occur: in the attention to various things at the same time (driving, for example), in the working memory (the ability to remember and use relevant information while in the middle of an activity), in the ability to recall new information, in the ability to understand spatial relationships (not knowing how much to turn to parallel-park a car, for example), and in conceptualizing problems, making appropriate decisions, and planning and carrying out effective actions.

But let us not be disheartened, age makes up for these possible problems with the experience, and there are other cognitive abilities such as language and vocabulary that decline little if any with age. It is the combination of all these cognitive skills which allows people to perform daily activities (including social behaviours).

There are structural and chemical changes in the brain associated with aging that correspond to age-related changes in performance of cognitive tasks; for example, white matter deterioration in the front of the brain has been associated with slower information-processing speed and more difficulty recalling information. The hippocampus is among the first neural structures affected by age and atrophy in this brain region is associated with cognitive decline.

An increase in omega-6 with respect to omega-3 fatty acids may negatively affect cognition in old age, while a lower disproportion between omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is related with better spatial memory and faster learning (both hippocampus-dependent), as well as higher cognitive status overall. Western diet favours consumption of omega-6 fatty acids; so, we should reduce it and increase the intake of omega-3, as one of the measures that we can adopt to prevent age-related cognitive decline.



Andruchow ND, Konishi K, Shatenstein B et al. A Lower Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids Predicts Better Hippocampus-Dependent Spatial Memory and Cognitive Status in Older Adults. Neuropsychology. 2017 Apr 10.

Howieson DB. Cognitive Skills and the Aging Brain: What to Expect. The Dana Foundation. Cerebrum. December, 2015.



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