Dorene Lebowitz has been taking supplements of omega-3 fish oil for 10 years, hoping to stay healthy and keep her mind sharp.
"If it could possibly work then it's fine with me. I'd be delighted," she said.
It's long been thought that the fatty acids found in fish and nuts are good for the brain, but a new review of past studies found older people who took omega-3 supplements did not score any better on thinking and memory tests than participants who took a placebo.
"This is a great shame. It would be lovely to find a solution for cognitive decline and dementia, and unfortunately, the evidence as it stands says it does not benefit cognitive function in older people," said Dr. Alan Dangour, a co-author of the study.
But other experts say the studies weren't long enough and the patients weren't old enough.
"Those were young patients by any standard; they were in their 60s, early 70s. Today that's middle age," said Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, the director of geriatric education at North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet and may provide heart benefits, so even the study's authors recommend people continue to eat two servings of fish a week.
As for the supplements, the authors say it's up to the individual to make the decision. Dorene Lebowitz says she's not giving them up.
"I've heard and read more positive things about it, so I would continue it. It doesn't seem to have anything that could be harmful," she said.
Doctors say diet, along with physical and mental activity, will go a long way toward keeping the mind young.
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