Association between cognitive function and supplementation with omega-3 PUFAs and other nutrients in ≥ 75 years old patients: A randomized multicenter study

PLoS One. 2018 Mar 26;13(3):e0193568. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193568. eCollection 2018.


A few studies have assessed the association between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) and cognitive impairment (CI) in very old adults. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of a multinutrient supplementation rich in n-3 PUFA on the cognitive function in an institutionalized ≥75-year-old population without CI or with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A multicenter placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial was conducted between 2012 and 2013. Cognitive function was assessed at baseline and after one year using 4 neuropsychological tests. Nutritional status was assessed using Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA). Interaction between Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score and nutritional status were analyzed using linear regression models. A total of 99 participants were randomized to receive placebo or pills rich in n-3 PUFA. After 1-year follow-up, both groups decreased their MMSE score (-1.18, SD:0. 53 and -0.82, SD:0. 63, p = 0.67 for the control and the intervention group respectively). The memory subscale of the MMSE showed an improvement (+0.26, SD:0.18) in the intervention group against a worsening in the control group (-0.11, SD: 0.14; p = 0.09 for differences between groups). Patients at intervention group with normal nutritional status (MNA ≥24) showed an improvement in the MMSE (+1.03, p = 0.025 for differences between 1-y and baseline measurements) against a worsening in the group with malnutrition (MNA<24) (-0.4, p = 0.886 for differences between 1-y and baseline; p of interaction p = 0.05). Supplementation with n-3 PUFA did not show an improvement in the global cognitive function in institutionalized elderly people without CI or with MCI. They only suggest an apparent improvement in memory loss if previously they were well nourished.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status / drug effects
  • Patient Compliance
  • Safety


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3

Grants and funding

The AMMA group, a group of geriatric nursing homes, provided indirectly support in the form of salaries for some authors but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. A competitive grant from the Spanish Society of Basic and Applied Nutrition (SENBA) was used to pay publishing fees of the study in PLOS ONE.