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Fish Oil Pills: No Help Against Mental Decline


If you've been buying omega-3 fish oil pills to help prevent mental decline as you age, save your money.

Better yet, use that money to buy real fish. A new analysis of fish oil research finds that omega-3 fatty acid capsules don't provide any protection against declines in thinking and memory skills among older adults.

As Reuters reports, the theory has been that because the brain is rich in the type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil, adding more fish oil to the diet would help the brain and protect against the changes that lead to mental decline.

But in a review of three of the biggest, best studies lasting between six months and three years, researchers found there was no difference in changes on learning and memory tests among more than 3,500 cognitively healthy people over the age of 60 who took either omega-3 fish oil supplements or sunflower or olive oil as a comparison.

Based on the evidence, "taking supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids is not going to benefit cognitive health later in life,"Alan Dangour, a nutrition researcher from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who worked on the new analysis, told Reuters.

"The truth is many people are spending a lot of money on supplements without solid evidence they do something,"  said Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., a neurology and aging researcher at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Keep in mind that the new findings don't rule out a potential benefit in some people, or that a longer study would show some benefit.

Researchers also stressed that although fish oil capsules do not appear to prevent dementia, eating fish is still good for your heart.

"While taking omega-3 supplements may not be the key to staving off cognitive problems, eating a healthy balanced diet, including fish and other natural sources of omega-3, is important for maintaining good health,"  Marie Janson, M.D., a researcher with Alzheimer's Research UK, told BBC News.

So what fish should you be adding to your menu? According to the researchers, "oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are a rich source of omega-3, important for brain development."

In other health news:

Docs worry about new blood thinner Pradaxa.  Pradaxa, one of first new blood thinners to be introduced in past 60 years, has cardiologists worried that its potential risks for stroke, serious bleeding and blood clots are just as serious as those of older, more common warfarin. "The average patient doesn't understand anything about the new drug, or what the risks are, or what other medicines he can or can't take," one doctor told Reuters, citing interactions with common painkillers and other drugs that can alter Pradaxa blood levels. Last year, 542 reports of deaths associated with Pradaxa were reported to the FDA, topping all other medicines, including warfarin, with 72 deaths.

Your 100 trillion microbes make you unique. In a new five-year federal endeavor, the Human Microbiome Project, which has been compared to the Human Genome Project, 200 scientists at 80 institutions sequenced the genetic material of bacteria taken from nearly 250 healthy people. The New York Times reports that scientists discovered more strains of bacteria than they had ever imagined, and each person's collection of microbes was different from the next person's.

Just in time for summer...a bacon sundae! What obesity epidemic? The Los Angeles Times reports on Burger King's limited edition summer menu that includes a a classic ice cream sundae made with vanilla ice cream and swirls of hot fudge and caramel plus bacon crumbles. If that's not enough bacon for you, the sundae is garnished with a piece of thick-cut hardwood-smoked bacon for dipping.

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