Halt mental decline with Omega-3s and B vitamins: Researchers found that essential fatty acids boost the benefits of Bs

Have you heard that taking B vitamin supplements can help older people who are experiencing memory problems to slow their mental decline? While this is terrific news on its own, it turns out that the effects can be even better if you pair B vitamins with omega-3s.

A team of researchers from several prominent universities looked at 250 individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Also known as MCI, this occurs when a person’s brain function drops below the level that would be expected for their age but has not advanced to the point where it interferes with their everyday life. If it is left untreated, it could go on to become dementia.

At the study’s inception, researchers tested each participant to measure their level of cognition, and blood tests were administered to determine their levels of DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids that are typically found in oily fish.

They were then divided into one of two randomly selected groups. The first group was given a B-vitamin supplement and the other received a placebo pill. Over the course of two years, researchers measured their cognitive performance and compared it to the baseline results noted at the beginning of the study.

The researchers found that the B vitamins were quite effective at stopping cognitive decline in participants who had high baseline levels of omega-3 compared to the placebo. However, the vitamins had very little effect for those who had low levels of omega-3.

Interestingly, they also discovered that the levels of DHA a person had could have more importance in this process than their EPA levels, although more research is needed to say so conclusively.

Next, the researchers would like to study whether combining B vitamins with Omega-3 supplements has the power to slow a person’s progression from MCI to dementia, which would be a significant step forward in finding a way to prevent Alzheimer’s. The researchers are hopeful that such a study would prove effective but pointed out that obtaining the funding needed will be difficult.

The Director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer’s Society, Dr. Doug Brown, said: “These results help us to tease apart who could benefit from taking B vitamins, suggesting that they might only improve cognition in people who have high levels of Omega-3 oils in their blood. Encouragingly, these findings suggest that for some older people a combination of fish oil supplements and B vitamins may help to improve thinking and memory.”

Dietary sources of B vitamins and omega 3

While supplementation is one route they could take, there are also great dietary sources people can turn to. According to the NHS, you can find vitamin B6 in a wide range of foods such as eggs, vegetables, peanuts, pork, and poultry. Pantothenic acid, another B vitamin, is found in nearly every meat and vegetable, while vitamin B3 – also known as niacin – is present in fish, eggs, milk and meat. Good sources of thiamin, or vitamin B1, include peas, fruit, and eggs, while consuming rice, eggs and milk is a great way to get riboflavin, or vitamin B2. As you can see, these are all easily obtainable and affordable foods.

Getting omega-3 from food sources is not as straightforward, but it’s certainly achievable by making conscious eating choices. Choose fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna for maximum impact. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in walnuts, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and spinach.

Consuming B vitamins is certainly beneficial, but if your goal is to help prevent cognitive decline, adding some more omega 3 to your diet could make all the difference.

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