No effect of 12 weeks' supplementation with 1 g DHA-rich or EPA-rich fish oil on cognitive function or mood in healthy young adults aged 18-35 years

Br J Nutr. 2012 Apr;107(8):1232-43. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100403X. Epub 2011 Aug 25.


The n-3 PUFA are a unique class of fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body, and must be acquired via dietary sources. In the UK, as well as in other Western nations, these 'essential' fatty acids are consumed in quantities that fall below government guidelines. The present study explored the effects of 12 weeks' dietary supplementation with 1 g/d of two types of fish oil (FO; DHA-rich and EPA-rich) in 159 healthy young adults aged 18-35 years. An assessment of performance on a battery of computerised cognitive tasks and mood measures took place before and following the 12-week treatment regimen. Venous blood samples were also supplied by participants at both time points which were later analysed for serum fatty acid concentrations. Despite good adherence to the study protocol - as reflected in increased concentrations of n-3 serum fatty acids - compared with placebo, the observed effects of both active treatments were minimal. The only finding of note revealed that supplementation with EPA-rich FO may reduce subjective mental fatigue at times of high cognitive demand, although further investigation is required. These findings, taken together with other recent reports of null effects, suggest that dietary supplementation with n-3 PUFA in healthy, normally developing and impairment-free populations is unlikely to result in cognitive enhancement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Cognition*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Fish Oils / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids
  • Fish Oils
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid