FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
High-dose treatment with omega-3 EPA - one of the main long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oils - showed better potential for improving overall cognitive function in patients with Alzheimers dementia than did FDA-approved medications, according to this new meta-analytic network analysis of 52 randomised controlled trials, involving more than 20,000 patients.
Long-term treatment with Omega-3 EPA - one of the main long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) found in fish oils - was also found to be just as safe and acceptable to patients with dementia as placebo treatment.
Just 6 of the 52 trials in this meta-analysis involved EPA treatment (at 1500-2000mg/day, augmented with antioxidants), while 46 involved FDA-approved medications.
As the researchers concluded, these findings indicate the need for further large-scale, long-term trials of EPA-dominant formulations of omega-3 LC-PUFA for the prevention and management of age-related cognitive impairment and dementia.
Particular issues for further exploration include both the effects of different dosages, and the possible relevance of patients' inflammatory status - as EPA has well-documented anti-inflammatory actions, which could help to explain the benefits observed.
At doses of 1000-2000mg/day, clinical trials and meta-analyses have already shown omega-3 EPA to be effective as an adjunctive treatment for clinical depression. For detailed treatment guidelines based on this evidence, see:
Like Alzheimer's disease, clinical depression is often - but not always - associated with excessive inflammation. Ongoing research into the use of omega-3 EPA for depression is therefore already exploring biomarkers of both inflammation and other factors that may help to predict treatment response, as well as dose-ranging studies.