A 2015 study found that, in older adults, higher blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA were associated with improved cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch efficiently between tasks, and is an aspect of what is known as “executive function” that includes the ability to plan, reason, and pay attention, among other things. For the study, which was published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, researchers analyzed the blood levels of EPA and DHA in 40 cognitively healthy adults, aged 65 to 75, who had a genetic variant thought to increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Not only did researchers find that higher blood levels of omega-3s correlated to improved cognitive flexibility, they also found a correlation between omega-3 blood levels and increased volumes of the anterior cingulate cortex—a brain region thought to contribute to cognitive flexibility. The findings are potentially important because they may indicate that omega-3s have a direct effect on the brain. In contrast, previous studies suggested omega-3s supported cognitive function by improving vascular function, such as by reducing blood pressure, inflammation, and triglyceride levels. Of course, it may be that omega-3s help support cognitive function in both ways, although more research is needed on this subject.
Source: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience