There is evidence linking fish oil to positive health benefits ranging from improving focus in patients with ADHD to helping with postpartum depression to fighting macular degeneration (though none are considered ‘proven’). The latest is from researchers at Rhode Island University, who found positive associations between fish oil supplements and brain function as well as differences in brain structure of fish oil users and non-users. Data was obtained from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), which tested older adults with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s Disease for over three years.
Those that took fish oil supplements regularly were associated with better cognitive functioning, though the association was significant only in individuals with a normal, baseline cognitive function who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s called APOE4. This is standard in fish oil tests, though. The new finding here is that fish oil supplements were linked to brain volume, at least in those without APOE4. In general, brain volume, particularly is certain areas, is considered an indicator of how well the brain functions (though I don’t think there is a consensus on this).
“In the imaging analyses for the entire study population, we found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking (cerebral cortex and hippocampus), as well as smaller brain ventricular volumes compared to non-users at any given time in the study,” said lead researcher Lori Daiello. “In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements.”