Effects of fish oil and curcumin supplementation on cerebrovascular function in older adults: A randomized controlled trial

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2020 Apr 12;30(4):625-633. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2019.12.010. Epub 2019 Dec 30.


Background and aims: Chronic conditions such as obesity, which contribute to endothelial dysfunction in older adults, can cause impairments in cerebrovascular perfusion, which is associated with accelerated cognitive decline. Supplementing the diet with bioactive nutrients that can enhance endothelial function, such as fish oil or curcumin, may help to counteract cerebrovascular dysfunction.

Methods and results: A 16-week double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial was undertaken in 152 older sedentary overweight/obese adults (50-80 years, body mass index: 25-40 kg/m2) to investigate effects of fish oil (2000 mg docosahexaenoic acid + 400 mg eicosapentaenoic acid/day), curcumin (160 mg/day) or a combination of both on cerebrovascular function (measured by Transcranial Doppler ultrasound), systemic vascular function (blood pressure, heart rate and arterial compliance) and cardiometabolic (fasting glucose and blood lipids) and inflammatory (C-reactive protein) biomarkers. The primary outcome, cerebrovascular responsiveness to hypercapnia, was not affected by the interventions. However, cerebral artery stiffness was significantly reduced in males following fish oil supplementation (P = 0.007). Furthermore, fish oil reduced heart rate (P = 0.038) and serum triglycerides (P = 0.006) and increased HDL cholesterol (P = 0.002). Curcumin did not significantly affect these outcomes either alone or in combination with fish oil.

Conclusion: Regular supplementation with fish oil but not curcumin improved biomarkers of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular function. The combined supplementation did not result in additional benefits. Further studies are warranted to identify an efficacious curcumin dose and to characterize (in terms of sex, BMI, cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors) populations whose cerebrovascular and cognitive functions might benefit from either intervention.

Clinical trial registration: ACTRN12616000732482p.

Keywords: Cerebrovascular function; Curcumin; Endothelial function; Fish oil; Inflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Curcumin / administration & dosage*
  • Curcumin / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Fish Oils / adverse effects
  • Health Status
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Stiffness / drug effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Fish Oils
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lipids
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • Curcumin