As the process of Alzheimer's disease (AD) begins years before disease onset, searching for prevention strategies is of major medical and economic importance. Nutritional supplementation with long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (LC-n3-FA) may exert beneficial effects on brain structure and function. However, experimental evidence in older adults without clinical dementia is inconsistent, possibly due to low sensitivity of previously employed test batteries for detecting subtle improvements in cognition in healthy individuals. Here we used LOCATO, recently described as a robust and sensitive tool for assessing object-location memory (OLM) in older adults, to evaluate the impact of LC-n3-FA supplementation on learning and memory formation. In a double-blind placebo-controlled proof-of-concept study, 44 (20 female) cognitively healthy individuals aged 50-75 years received either LC-n3-FA (2,200 mg/day, n = 22) or placebo (n = 22) for 26 weeks. Before and after intervention, memory performance in the OLM-task (primary) was tested. As secondary outcome parameters, performance in Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT), dietary habits, omega-3-index, and other blood-derived parameters were assessed. Omega-3 index increased significantly in the LC-n3-FA group compared with the placebo group. Moreover, recall of object locations was significantly better after LC-n3-FA supplementation compared with placebo. Performance in the AVLT was not significantly affected by LC-n3-FA. This double-blind placebo-controlled proof-of-concept study provides further experimental evidence that LC-n3-FA exert positive effects on memory functions in healthy older adults. Our findings suggest novel strategies to maintain cognitive functions into old age.
Keywords: Cognitive aging; dietary prevention; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; fish oil.