Changes in cognitive function and memory decline form a normal part of aging. However, in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, these changes occur more quickly. “Ideally, any measures used should be aimed at long-term prevention. This means that measures must be suitable for use in healthy older adults, and should be easy to integrate into day-to-day life,” says Dr. Nadine Külzow, a researcher at Charité’s Department of Neurology. Nutritional supplements represent one such option. “A number of different dietary components, including omega-3 fatty acids, are currently thought to have a direct effect on nerve cell function. This is why we decided to study the effects on memory function of a daily dose of 2,200 milligrams taken for a duration of six months,” says Dr. Külzow.
Study participants who received omega-3 fatty acids showed greater improvements on an object location memory task than participants who received a placebo containing sunflower oil. However, there was no evidence of improved performance on a verbal learning test. “Results from this study suggest that a long-term approach to prevention is particularly effective in preserving cognitive function in older individuals. A targeted approach involving dietary supplements can play a central role in this regard,” concluded the researchers. As a next step, however, the researchers are planning to test the effect of supplementation with a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B. According to research conducted at Oxford, this combination may be associated with synergistic effects.