DHA supplement improves brain function, learning and memory in the elderly

May 06, 2010

     A new study reports a benefit for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in a clinical trial of individuals with age-related cognitive decline (ARC).
The report summarized the outcome of The Memory Improvement with DHA Study (MIDAS). MIDAS included 485 individuals aged 55 and older with mild memory complaints. Participants were given a daily dose of 900 mg of DHA derived from algae or a placebo for 6 months. Testing of memory and learning was conducted at the beginning of the study, and at 12 and 24 weeks.
     At the end of the treatment period, plasma DHA levels had doubled in the group that received the omega-3 fatty acid and this correlated with improved test scores. At 24 weeks of DHA supplementation there was a 2-fold reduction in the number of learning and episodic memory errors compared to the placebo in vision/spatial learning. Those who received DHA made an amount of errors equivalent on average to someone 72.6 years old before the trial and to 65.6 years of age after 24 weeks of supplementation.
    "Our results are the first to clinically confirm that DHA significantly improves episodic memory and learning functions in healthy adults with ARC," the authors announce. Verbal memory test scores also improved on DHA. "Up to one third of the more than 75 million baby boomers in the U.S. will experience a gradual decline in cognitive function as they age," noted coauthor Edward B. Nelson, MD. "MIDAS is significant because it shows for the first time that taking 900 mg of algal DHA daily may have a very meaningful and important impact on cognitive function in the aging population." Supplementation with 900 mg/d DHA improved learning and memory function in ARCD and is a beneficial supplement that supports cognitive health with aging. The study is published online ahead of print on April 30, 2010 in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.