Are omega-3s really good for your brain?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

omega 3 pills
A new study from the University of Iowa suggests that omega-3s are not as healthy as they seem.

If you could take a miracle pill that boosted memory, verbal, and thinking skills, would you? Supposedly, omega-3s (a type of fatty acid) can improve all of these abilities… or, at least they used to? A new body of evidence suggests that omega-3s may not be as incredible as past studies have claimed!

How “healthy” are they anyways? Well, researchers from New York’s Columbia University Medical Center suggested that the fatty acid curbs memory loss in older folks. The molecule has also been known to keep the brains of senior citizens sharp.

However, a new study challenges all that.

University of Iowa researchers observed 2,157 women between the ages of  65 to 80. For around 6 years, they kept track of those who constantly consumed omega-3s and those that didn’t. Did the women who took omega-3s have better brain skills than the other gals?

Apparently not. Every year, the researchers tested the group of ladies on their memory, verbal, and coordination abilities, yet there was no big difference between the two groups. “In our study, cognitive function declined at the same rate in older women across the range of omega-3 blood levels,” said Ammann.

What!? If there’s actually no difference, why have other scientific studies found evidence that omega-3s boost brain power? According to Ammann, it’s because people who take high amounts of omega-3s tend to be more aware of their health, and they avoid things that could hurt their memory. So, even if it seems like the omega-3s were responsible for the beneficial health factors, it could have easily just been the healthy lifestyles.

However, Ammann is not recommending that everyone suddenly stop eating omega-3s. “Our study was observational and should not be viewed as a definitive answer on the relationship between omega-3s and cognitive function,” said Ammann. “In making health-related decisions about diet and supplements, we would advise people to consider the total body of evidence and to consult with their healthcare providers.”

Featured image courtesy of Jo Christian Otherhals on Flickr.