Introduction: Low dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and/or foods rich in lutein may be associated with increased risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.
Subjects and methods: The cognitive benefit of DHA and lutein in unimpaired elder women was explored in the context of a 4-month, double-blind, intervention trial of DHA and lutein supplementation for eye health. Forty-nine women (aged 60-80 years) were randomized to receive DHA (800 mg/day; n = 14), lutein (12 mg/day; n = 11), a combination of DHA and lutein (n = 14) or placebo (n = 10). Subjects underwent cognitive tests measuring verbal fluency, memory, processing speed and accuracy, and self-reports of mood at randomization and upon completion of the trial.
Results: Following supplementation, verbal fluency scores improved significantly in the DHA, lutein, and combined treatment groups (P < 0.03). Memory scores and rate of learning improved significantly in the combined treatment group (P < 0.03), who also displayed a trend toward more efficient learning (P = 0.07). Measures of mental processing speed, accuracy and mood were not affected by supplementation.
Conclusions: These exploratory findings suggest that DHA and lutein supplementation may have cognitive benefit for older adults.