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Study Casts Doubt on Omega-3, Antioxidant Brain Benefits

BENJAMIN RADFORD

Omega-3 fatty acids—found naturally in a variety of foods including walnuts, edible seeds, and fish oil—are important for the body’s metabolism. In recent years companies marketing vitamin supplements have touted omega-3 and antioxidants as important for maintaining brain health and preventing cognitive decline in later years.

However, a large clinical trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (August 25, 2015) casts doubt on those claims. In one of the largest and most comprehensive studies to date, nearly 4,000 patients were randomly assigned to one of four groups, including one that received a placebo.

The average age of the participants was seventy-three, and nearly 60 percent were female. After testing for changes in cognitive function (first to establish a baseline for each patient and then at twoyear intervals) the researchers concluded, “There were no statistically significant differences in change of scores for participants randomized to receive supplements versus those who were not.” Since the patients did the same with or without the omega-3 and antioxidant supplements, there was no effect.

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