EPA-rich fish oil increases the cognitive performance of healthy young adults: RCT


Scientists from Northumbria University and Southamton University in England and BASF in Norway reported that the DHA-rich supplement improved reaction time, while a 26-week supplement with a DHA-rich fish oil did not improve these endpoints compared to placebo. compared to placebo.

“To the best of our knowledge, the current study is the first to examine and identify significant improvements in healthy young adults in both global accuracy and speed of cognitive function after supplementation with EPA-enriched oil compared to placebo,” the researchers write in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

BASF AS funded the study and supplied all the capsules used.

“An important new study”

Independently of the study, William Harris, PhD, President and Founder of the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) commented to NutraIngredients-USA. “This is an important new study that is essential to understanding the role omega-3s can play in maintaining mental health.”

“It’s important for three reasons: 1) It was done on healthy young adults, not the elderly or infants; 2) it only used about 1200 mg EPA + DHA for only 6 months; and 3) EPA-rich (non-pure) oils were found to be more effective than DHA-rich (non-pure) oils in affecting cognitive function.

“These observations will help future researchers to refine and deepen this line of investigation.”

Study details

The researchers recruited 310 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 49 to participate in their randomized controlled trial. The volunteers were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the first group received DHA-rich fish oil supplements (900 mg DHA / d and 270 mg EPA / d); the second group received fish oil supplements rich in EPA (360 mg DHA / d and 900 mg EPA / d); and the third group received 3 grams of olive oil per day (placebo).

A series of memory questions were performed at the start of the study and after 26 weeks. Hemoglobin (Hb) oxygenation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was also measured using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).

The results showed that participants who consumed the EPA-rich fish oil performed significantly better than placebo for global accuracy ratings, better than placebo and DHA for global accuracy, and better than DHA for accuracy of memory scores.

While the EPA-rich supplement did not significantly improve reaction times compared to placebo, the DHA group recorded statistically significant improvements in reaction time compared to placebo during the learning phase of the nightly memory consolidation tasks.

There was a trend towards reduced oxygenated Hb with PFC in both fish oil groups, but these measurements did not reach statistical significance, the researchers said.

The scientists said the results expand on previous findings in older adults, and together these data suggest that “EPA, although stored in small amounts in the brain, can still play an important role in higher-order cognitive functions, as previously suggested .

“In contrast, and somewhat surprisingly, these beneficial effects were not seen after the DHA-rich oil, where improvements in cognition were limited to improved word recognition RTs during the learning phase of nighttime memory consolidation tasks,” they noted.

“These results show that EPA over DHA supplementation may be more beneficial in terms of cognitive outcomes in healthy young adults. It also shows that the ratio of EPA and DHA in the trial treatments provided to participants could be an important consideration that can greatly affect study results.

“Given the previous emphasis on DHA in the literature, this may partly explain the limited effects previously reported when DHA supplementation is actually less relevant in healthy young populations,” they added.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online in advance, doi: 10.1093 / ajcn / nqab174
Supplementing with Oil Rich in Eicosapentaenoic Acid But Not Docosahexaenoic Acid Improves Global Cognitive Function in Healthy Young Adults: Results from Randomized Controlled Trials
Authors: MJ Patan et al.


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