Exercise, Omega-3 Doesn't Help Cognition in Elderly

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Researchers say eating a more healthy diet may have more of an effect.
Researchers say eating a more healthy diet may have more of an effect.

HealthDay News — Neither exercise nor supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids seem to preserve cognitive function in the elderly, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kaycee Sink, MD, medical director of the Kulynych Memory Assessment Clinic at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues found no significant difference in mild cognitive impairment or dementia among individuals aged 70 and 89 who participated in physical activity and those who were assigned to health education workshops and arm stretching (13.2 versus 12.1%).

In another study, Emily Chew, MD, deputy director of the division of epidemiology and clinical applications at the U.S. National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues tested the effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and lutein and zeaxanthin supplements on cognitive function.

The researchers randomly assigned 7,242 participants in an age-related eye disease study — average age 73 — to a fish oil supplement, or lutein and zeaxanthin or a placebo. Participants were also given combinations of vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and zinc. They underwent yearly eye exams and cognitive function tests every other year.

The researchers found that over five years there were no statistically significant differences in measures of cognitive function among those who took LCPUFAs and those who didn't. The researchers reported similar results for those who took lutein/zeaxanthin supplements and those who didn't.

"From our point of view, it's probably more important to eat a healthy diet," Chew told HealthDay. "Or perhaps at that age it's too late to start taking supplements or improving your diet. You are what you eat, you should start much earlier."

References

Sink KM, et al. Effect of a 24-Month Physical Activity Intervention vs Health Education on Cognitive Outcomes in Sedentary Older Adults. JAMA. 2015; 314(8):781-790.

Chew EY, et al. Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein/Zeaxanthin, or Other Nutrient Supplementation on Cognitive Function. JAMA. 2015;314(8):791-801.

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