The omega-6/omega-3 ratio and dementia or cognitive decline: a systematic review on human studies and biological evidence

J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr. 2013;32(1):1-23. doi: 10.1080/21551197.2012.752335.


It has been suggested that the intake of certain fatty acids may influence the risk of dementia. However, current reviews have focused only on the therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acids, mostly as supplements. To date, the evidence for the relevance of the omega-6/omega-3 ratio has been neglected. Therefore, we searched the databases Alois, Medline, Biosis, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for "essential fatty acids" and "dementia" and aimed to conduct a comprehensive review across study types. All studies that reported on the association between the n-6/n-3 ratio and dementia or cognitive decline were selected. In the 13 animal studies we examined, the dietary n-6/n-3 ratio was shown to affect brain composition, Alzheimer's disease pathology, and behavior. Our review of the 14 studies in humans that fulfilled the selection criteria (7 prospective studies, 3 cross-sectional studies, 1 controlled trial, 3 case-control studies) provided evidence, albeit limited, supporting an association between the n-6/n-3 ratio, cognitive decline, and incidence of dementia. This review supports growing evidence of a positive association between the dietary n-6/n-3 ratio and the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Dementia / physiopathology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / blood
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6