Cognition and omega-3

Cognitive impairment syndrome may be defined as a decrease in intellectual function compared to a previous level of execution. Cognitive impairment should be considered as a continually changing functional alteration, where three levels can be identified:

  • A normal, progressive loss that appears at the age of 70 and is usually termed age-related memory loss (ARML).
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), characterised by, mild shortterm memory loss, greater than is to be expected for the patient’s age and education.
  • A severe pathological reduction in mental function, given the following names, depending on its characteristics: severe cognitive impairment (SCI), senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (1).

To put it in perspective, one of the main health problems among the elderly will be the prevalence of age-related cognitive decline (2).

Currently, 35.6 million people have some type of dementia, and it is calculated that every year 7.7 million new cases are diagnosed (3). The number of people affected will double every 20 years to 81.1 million in 2040 (4).

However, it should be born in mind that before reaching dementia or a third level disorder (SCI or AD), the patient first has to pass through progressive mild cognitive impairment.

This is when depression first appears, i.e., the person realises they are losing their cognitive abilities, attention, memory and executive functions (planning, sorting, scheduling, time management) and in a second everything falls apart. It is well documented that patients with depression have memory problems, and vice versa, memory problems can initiate or continue depressive disease (5). A bleak situation that can be avoided with good prevention.

Why choose omega-3?

Neuronal tissues, such as the brain, retina and membranes that connect neurons (synapses) contain high amounts of DHA (6). Omega-3 fatty acids act on the transmission of information orders in the nervous system. Fish oil can improve memory in people with mild cognitive impairment. It may also be beneficial for patients with Alzheimer’s, as they lack DHA. EPA and DHA supplementation can improve cognitive function in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease (7). Epidemiological studies suggest that fish oil plays a beneficial role in detaining initial progression in Alzheimer’s disease (8).


1. Díaz JV. El deterioro cognitivo leve (DCL) en la edad de oro. (fecha de acceso: 14/01/2014). 2. Kueider AM, et al. Computerized cognitive training with older adults: a systematic review. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40588. 3. WHO. Dementia. April 2012. (fecha de acceso 14/01/2014). 4. Luck T, et al. Incidence of mild cognitive impairment: a systematic review. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2010;29(2):164-75. 5. Frais AT. Depression and the causal role of specific memory system degenerations: link may be supported by reported therapeutic benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids. Med Hypotheses. 2007;69(1):67-9. 6. Coronado M, et al. Los ácidos grasos omega-3 y omega-6: Nutrición, bioquímica y salud. REB 25(3) 2006: 72-79. 7. Swanson D, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan;3(1):1-7. 8. Lee LK, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid-concentrated fish oil supplementation in subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI): a 12-month randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Feb;225(3):605-12.

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  3. All scientific opinions that appear in this document are properly numbered and referenced at the end.
  4. Megafort Pharma, S.L. does not attribute the health claims contained in the scientific opinions in this document to its products.
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