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Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and brain aging

Denis, Isabellea; Potier, Brigitteb; Heberden, Christinec; Vancassel, Sylvied

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: March 2015 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p 139–146
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000141
LIPID METABOLISM AND THERAPY: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review The literature on the influence of dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (ω-3 PUFA) on brain aging has grown exponentially during the last decade. Many avenues have been explored but no global picture or clear evidence has emerged. Experimental studies have shown that ω-3 PUFA is involved in many neurobiological processes that are involved in neurotransmission and neuroprotection, indicating that these PUFAs may prevent age-related brain damage. Human studies have revealed only a weak link between ω-3 PUFA status and cognitive aging, whereas interventional studies have yet to confirm it. The purpose of this review is to analyze the developments in the area during the last 2 years.

Recent findings Human brain MRI studies have confirmed previous findings that ω-3 PUFA can protect the brain during aging; two intervention studies obtained clear evidence. We also analyzed the experimental data clarifying the involvement of ω-3 PUFA in neurotransmission, neuroprotection (including prevention of peroxidation, inflammation, and excitotoxicity), and neurogenesis, thereby helping the brain cope with aging.

Summary These recent human and experimental studies provide support for and clarification of how ω-3 PUFA protect against brain aging and highlight the main lines for future research.

aUnité de Neurobiologie de l’Olfaction, NBO U1197, INRA, Jouy-en-Josas

bINSERM UMR 894, Centre de Psychiatrie et Neurosciences, Paris

cUnité MICALIS, UMR 1319, INRA, Jouy-en-Josas

dUnité NutriNeurO, UMR INRA 1286, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, Bordeaux, France

Correspondence to Isabelle Denis, Unité de Neurobiologie de l’Olfaction, INRA, Jouy-en-Josas 78352, France. Tel: +33 1 34 65 23 13; e-mail:

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