There is evidence that both omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]) and cocoa flavanols can improve cognitive performance in both healthy individuals and in those with memory complaints. However, their combined effect is unknown.
To investigate the combined effect of EPA/DHA and cocoa flavanols (OM3FLAV) on cognitive performance and brain structures in older adults with memory complaints.
A randomized placebo-controlled trial of DHA-rich fish oil (providing 1.1 g/d DHA and 0.4 g/d EPA) and a flavanol-rich dark chocolate (providing 500 mg/d flavan-3-ols) was conducted in 259 older adults with either subjective cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment. Participants underwent assessment at baseline, 3 mo, and 12 mo. The primary outcome was the number of false-positives on a picture recognition task from the Cognitive Drug Research computerized assessment battery. Secondary outcomes included other cognition and mood outcomes, plasma lipids, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and glucose levels. A subset of 110 participants underwent structural neuroimaging at baseline and at 12 mo.
197 participants completed the study. The combined intervention had no significant effect on any cognitive outcomes, with the exception of reaction time variability (P = 0.007), alertness (P < 0.001), and executive function (P < 0.001), with a decline in function observed in the OM3FLAV group (118.6 [SD 25.3] at baseline versus 113.3 [SD 25.4] at 12 mo for executive function) relative to the control, and an associated decrease in cortical volume (P = 0.039). Compared with the control group, OM3FLAV increased plasma HDL, total cholesterol ratio (P < 0.001), and glucose (P = 0.008) and reduced TG concentrations (P < 0.001) by 3 mo, which were sustained to 12 mo, with no effect on BDNF. Changes in plasma EPA and DHA and urinary flavonoid metabolite concentrations confirmed compliance to the intervention.
These results suggest that cosupplementation with ω-3 PUFAs and cocoa flavanols for 12 mo does not improve cognitive outcomes in those with cognitive impairment.
- Mild cognitive impairment
- Subjective cognitive impairment