A common question is: does fish oil help contribute to a healthy memory? Studies show that taking fish oil supplements may improve brain function in people with mild cognitive impairment or age-related cognitive decline.
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is the oil or fat extracted from fish tissue. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil provide many health benefits, such as heart and mental health, eye health, support for healthy skin, and reducing inflammation.
People who don’t eat fish may not get enough EPA and DHA since they are mainly from fatty fish and fish oil. The body can make EPA and DHA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another omega-3 fatty acid.
However, the body can’t convert ALA to EPA and DHA very efficiently. Foods sources with ALA include walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, soybeans, and soybean oil.
How Does Fish Oil Help with Brain Function?
- Performing mental processes known as cognition
- The ability to learn new things
- Support independence
And poor brain health can manifest over time into cognitive impairment, decline, brain aging, and dementia. EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are critical for normal brain function, maintenance of brain function throughout life, and development.
Lower levels of DHA in older adults have been associated with smaller brain size, a sign of accelerated brain aging. Some studies suggest that people with certain mental health conditions have lower omega-3 blood levels.
How Fish Oil May Benefit Mild Memory Loss
Age-related memory loss doesn’t usually impact your daily life, meaning it’s not disabling. Dementia, on the other hand, affects your intellectual abilities like memory, language, and thinking.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is that stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and symptoms indicating dementia. Common frequent symptoms of MCI can include:
- Losing or misplacing things
- Forgetting conversations, appointments, or social events
- Difficulty remembering new names
- Difficulty keeping up with conversations
While MCI may increase the risk of dementia, some people with mild cognitive impairment might never get worse. Others may even get better or return to normal.
So, can fish oil benefit mild memory loss?
A 2015 study found that taking supplements with DHA alone or combined with EPA contributed to improved memory function in older adults with mild memory concerns.
Other studies have suggested that taking fish oil supplements may improve brain function in people with mild cognitive impairment or age-related cognitive decline.
Another study conducted with 485 older adults with age-related cognitive decline showed those taking DHA performed better on memory and learning tests after 24 weeks.
Based on research, fish oil can improve brain function in people with MCI or mild dementia. However, further studies are needed to show if fish oil can benefit people with Alzheimer’s.
It’s important to note that supplementing with fish oil did not improve brain function in healthy individuals or older adults with no memory problems in multiple studies.
Ways to Help Your Memory
You can combat memory decline at any age by eating well for your body and brain health. And if you don’t get dietary vitamins from the foods you eat, you can supplement.
For example, if you don’t eat fish, you can supplement with fish oil to get the required omega-3 fatty acids. But make sure to check with your healthcare provider on dosage recommendations before taking any supplements.
Other ways to help your memory and delay or prevent dementia are having a strong supportive network, remaining engaged and stimulated, and establishing healthy sleep habits.
Mental & Physical Wellbeing in Older Adults
Fish oil may benefit the brain in many ways. It can improve memory, boost the immune system, enhance vision, and reduce inflammation.
All American Assisted Living at Wrentham looks at overall health and wellness in older adults with cognitive decline and memory loss. Call us to learn more about memory care and optimal living programs.