The effects of omega-3 fatty acids monotherapy in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment: a preliminary randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Aug 1;32(6):1538-44. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.05.015. Epub 2008 May 25.


A 24-week, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study was carried out to test the feasibility of using omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) monotherapy in people with cognitive impairment and to explore its effects on cognitive function and general clinical condition in these participants. Twenty three participants with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease and twenty three with mild cognitive impairment were randomized to receive omega-3 PUFAs 1.8 g/day or placebo (olive oil). The data of 35 (76%) participants with at least one post-treatment visit was analyzed. There were no severe adverse effects in either group and it suggests that omega-3 PUFAs were well tolerable in this population. The treatment group showed better improvement on the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Change Scale (CIBIC-plus) than those in the placebo group over the 24 week follow-up (p=0.008). There was no significant difference in the cognitive portion of the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog) change during follow-up in these two groups. However, the omega-3 fatty acids group showed significant improvement in ADAS-cog compared to the placebo group in participants with mild cognitive impairment (p=0.03), which was not observed in those with Alzheimer's disease. Higher proportions of eicosapentaenoic acid on RBC membranes were also associated with better cognitive outcome (p=0.003). Further studies should be considered with a larger-sample size, diet registration, higher dosages, comparisons between different combinations of PUFAs, and greater homogeneity of participants, especially those with mild Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / blood
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / blood
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / chemistry
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / drug effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid