Fish intake and cognitive function.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Cognitive Function Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Professional Data: Cognitive Function Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids


Cognitive function is the term used to describe a person's state of consciousness (alertness and orientation), memory, and attention span. A mental status examination (MSE) is a standard test used by healthcare professionals to measure a patient's overall mental health. Evaluating a patient's cognitive function includes, first of all, measuring their level of alertness and orientation.

It is important to know that there is a difference between the normal aging process, and dementia (loss of functions such as those described above). In normal aging, the loss of memory is slow and involves things like forgetting where objects are located, or forgetting a person's name or phone number. In dementia causing illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, the process continually worsens until the patient is unable to perform normal activities of daily living.

In the early stages, patients may seem inattentive or disoriented. Patients that become confused are generally subdued, not inclined to speak, and physically inactive. As the disease progresses, patients have increasing difficulty with memory, perception, comprehension, problem solving skills, language skills, and occasional inappropriate emotional behavior. In the final stages of dementia producing illnesses, the patient may lose the ability to coordinate muscle movement for walking, control the bowel or bladder, and may lose the ability to chew or swallow.

A recent study published in the journal Neurology examined the intake of fatty acids and fish in a middle-aged population. The purpose of this study was to determine the dietary intakes and the association with cognitive function. Memory, information processing, and overall cognition were recorded in these participants. Food-frequency questionnaires were completed to assess the intake of fish or fatty acids. The results showed that those who had a high intake of marine omega-3 fatty acids had a lower risk of cognitive problems. Similar results were found for those who had a high dietary fish intake. The authors concluded that, “Fatty fish and marine omega-3 PUFA consumption was associated with a reduced risk and intake of cholesterol and saturated fat with an increased risk of impaired cognitive function in this middle-aged population.”1


1. Kalmin S. Dietary intake of fatty acids and fish in relation to cognitive performance at middle age. Neurology. 2004;62;275-80.