Skip to content

This Popular Supplement Can Help Combat Dementia, New Study Shows

Start taking this if you want to stay sharp well into your old age.

If you're concerned about your well-being, you probably have some supplements you're already taking on the regular. You may take a multivitamin for your overall health, you might throw in vitamin C  when you're concerned about your immune system, and you could be taking calcium to keep your bones strong. Here's one to add to your regimen—new research suggests that taking fish oil supplements could lower your dementia risk.

The study, recently published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, looked at dietary information from more than 215,000 older adults without dementia over a period of about eight years, on average, comparing fish oil supplement use with their risk of getting dementia during that time. The researchers found that the use of the supplement was linked to a lower risk of dementia.

However, it's worth flagging that, for this study, participants reported their own fish oil supplement intake, which can always lead to some inaccuracies compared to measuring other indicators of how much of the fat was in their bodies.

"It would have been nice if they used a validated biomarker (the omega-3 index) at the start and throughout the study period to get a better sense of the subjects' omega-3 status," Doug Cook, RDN, MHSc, author of 175 Best Superfood Blender Recipes and Nutrition for Canadians for Dummies, tells Eat This, Not That! "The omega-3 index reflects long-term intake of omega-3s. So, a person could say 'I took two grams of fish oils or omega-3,' but if their omega-3 index was low, we'd know that the self-reported intake was inaccurate."

Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science

older man with dementia talking to doctor
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

Still, this research supports the importance of having omega-3 fatty acids in your system. They have been linked to a wide range of positive health outcomes: lowering inflammation, boosting your immune system, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and even helping your skin, in addition to their various cognitive benefits.

"It's vital to ensure you get the antioxidant vitamins and omega-3 fats the brain needs for its protection and peak functioning," says Ngaire Hobbins, APD, chair of the Tasmanian division of the Australian Association of Gerontology and author of Brain Body Food – The Ultimate Guide to Thriving into Later Life and Reducing Dementia Risk.

"These forms of Vitamin A and E are found in intensely colored fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, while nuts, seeds, and oily fish also provide essential omega-3 fats," Hobbins adds. While it's best to get nutrients from the foods you eat, supplementation can help make up the difference if you can't.

If you're looking for more foods to help you get your omega-3s the old-fashioned way, consider adding these 26 Best Omega-3 Foods to Fight Inflammation and Support Heart Health to your diet.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara