News Release

Fish oil supplements reduce incidence of cognitive decline, may improve memory function

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5 million each year in the US

Peer-Reviewed Publication


PROVIDENCE, R.I. –Rhode Island Hospital researchers have completed a study that found regular use of fish oil supplements (FOS) was associated with a significant reduction in cognitive decline and brain atrophy in older adults. The study examined the relationship between FOS use during the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and indicators of cognitive decline. The findings are published online in advance of print in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.

"At least one person is diagnosed every minute with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and despite best efforts, we have not yet found a cure for this pervasive and debilitating disease," said principal investigator Lori Daiello, PharmD, of the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital. "The field is currently engaged in numerous studies to find better treatments for people suffering with AD; however, researching ways to prevent AD or slow cognitive decline in normal aging is of utmost importance."

In this retrospective study, older adults involved in the ADNI study were assessed with neuropsychological tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every six months. The group included 229 older adults who were cognitively normal; 397 who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment; and 193 with AD.

The study found that fish oil supplement use during the study was associated with significantly lower rates of cognitive decline as measured by the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog), and the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), but this benefit was observed only for the group of participants without dementia at the time of enrollment.

"Additionally, serial brain imaging conducted during this study showed that the participants with normal cognition who reported taking fish oil supplements demonstrated less brain shrinkage in key neurological areas, compared to those who did not use the supplements," Daiello said. "Also, the positive findings on cognitive testing and brain MRI were only observed in persons who did not carry the best-studied genetic risk factor for AD, APOE-4. More research is needed, but these findings are promising and highlight the need for future studies to expand the current knowledge of the effects of FOS use on cognitive aging and AD."

It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease. It is the most common form of dementia and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.


This research was funded by from the Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality (AHRQ) (K08 HS017735); National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (R00AA020235, P01AA019072, and R01NS080655); National Cancer Institute (R03 CA153942, R01 CA155381); National Institute of Nursing Research (R01 NR011295); National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (R01HL109116, R01 CA159954, 5T32HL076134, R01 HL064342); National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (R01AT006948); National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA021729, R34 DA031057); National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disorders (R18 DK075371); National Institutes of Health (R01 HL089311, U01 CA1503878; R34 DA031057-02, P01 AA019072, R01 NS036524, R01 HL084178, R01 DA020725, R56 DK075119, and R01 MH074368); and support from Pfizer; Janssen; Baxter, Eli Lilly and Avid pharmaceutical companies. Daiello's principal affiliation is Rhode Island Hospital, and she also holds academic appointments in the department of neurology (research) at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Health Services, Policy & Practice in the Brown University School of Public Health. Other current and former Lifespan researchers involved in the study are Brian Ott, M.D (Rhode Island Hospital; Shira Dunsiger, Ph.D, of The Miriam Hospital, Assawin Gongvatana, Ph.D (University of California San Diego), and Ronald A. Cohen, Ph.D., (University of Florida).

About Rhode Island Hospital

Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the principal teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. Last year, Rhode Island Hospital received more than $55 million in external research funding. It is also home to Hasbro Children's Hospital, the state's only facility dedicated to pediatric care. For more information on Rhode Island Hospital, visit, follow us on Twitter @RIHospital or like us on Facebook

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