Blood plasma fatty acids are believed to play a role in cognitive (brain) function in the elderly. While obtaining data from 2,251 adults in Minneapolis for a cardiovascular disease trial, researchers collected blood samples to look at plasma fatty acids and their relation in cardiovascular disease. In a subgroup analysis of these patients, researchers also investigated the relation between serum levels of various fatty acids and cognition (brain performance).
The researchers found that increased plasma levels of EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids which are abundant in fish oils, reduced the decline in verbal fluency (verbal fluency is a marker of cognition); particularly in those with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Conversely, those with higher levels of palmitic acid (saturated) and arachidonic acid (omega-6), and those with lower levels of linoleic acid (omega-6) suffered from a greater risk of cognitive decline over time.
Promoting higher intakes of EPA and DHA from fish oil, and reducing the intake of palmitic acid and arachidonic acid, may be advisable as a means of preventing cognitive decline in older adults with elevated blood pressure and cholesterol.
Beydoun, MA; Kaufmann, JS et al. “Plasma n-3 fatty acids and the risk of cognitive decline in older adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2007;85:1103-11.