Fish Oil: How does it benefit the ageing brain?

Author: ANCP   Date Posted:26 May 2016 

If you’re keen to stay mentally active as you get older, you might want to make sure you’re consuming fish on a regular basis. Research involving 14,000 participants aged 65 and over has shown that people in low to middle income countries whose diets contain the most fish were less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those who consume large quantities of meat.


DHA for age-related memory and learning decline

Additional research suggests that taking supplements of the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in fish and fish oil, may be beneficial for the health and functioning of the ageing brain. In a placebo-controlled study involving 485 people aged 55 years and older who were affected by age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) or age-related memory impairment, taking supplements containing 900 mg of DHA per day for 24 weeks improved learning ability and both immediate and delayed memory functioning.

The study concluded that supplementing with 900mg of DHA daily improved learning and memory function in people suffering from age-related cognitive decline and helped maintain and improve brain health in older adults.



How much fish do I need?

The richest dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and the related compound eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. The Heart Foundation estimates that a 150 mg serve of fresh Australian sardines contains a combined total of 4-500 mg of EPA and DHA per serve. To obtain 900 mg of DHA per day and replicate the dosage used in the study referred to above, you may need to take a fish oil supplement. Options include taking eight capsules per day of salmon oil or regular or enteric-coated fish oil, or four capsules per day of concentrated fish oil.


Are their other sources of DHA?

If you’re vegetarian, consider taking flaxseed oil capsules instead. They are a vegetarian source of omega-3 oils that can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body – although this process is not considered as efficient as consuming those oils in the state in which they’re present in fish oil.