Higher Omega-3 Levels Show Increased Blood Flow in the Brain

Neuroimaging shows increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning for people with higher omega-3 levels, according to a new report in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Amsterdam, NL, May 19, 2017 – The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is expected to triple in the coming decades and no cure has been found. Recently, interest in dietary approaches for prevention of cognitive decline has increased. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acids have shown anti-amyloid, anti-tau and anti-inflammatory actions in the brains of animals. In a new article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers have found that for patients with high omega-3 levels, blood flow in specific areas of the brain is increased.

“This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging,” commented George Perry, PhD, Dean and Professor of Biology, The University of Texas at San Antonio, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Single photon emission computed tomography, or SPECT, can measure blood perfusion in the brain. Images acquired from subjects performing various cognitive tasks will show higher blood flow in specific brain regions. When these images were compared to the Omega-3 Index, a measure of the blood concentration of two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), investigators found a statistically significant correlation between higher blood flow and higher Omega-3 Index. In addition, they evaluated the neuropsychological functions of the subjects and found that omega-3 levels also correlated with various psychological feelings using a standardized test battery (WebNeuro).

This study drew from a random sample of 166 participants from a psychiatric referral clinic for which Omega-3 Index results were available. The participants were categorized into two groups of higher EPA+DHA concentrations (>50th percentile) and lower concentrations (<50th percentile). Quantitative brain SPECT was conducted on 128 regions of their brains and each participant completed computerized testing of their neurocognitive status.

Results indicated statistically significant relationships between the Omega-3 index, regional perfusion on brain SPECT in areas involved with memory, and neurocognitive testing.

Overall, the study showed positive relationships between omega-3 EPA+DHA status, brain perfusion, and cognition. Lead author Daniel G. Amen, MD, of Amen Clinics Inc., Costa Mesa, CA, adds, “This is very important research because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.”

Co-author William S. Harris, PhD, University of South Dakota School of Medicine. Vermillion, SD, lends this perspective, “Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the ‘fish oil’ fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored. This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function.


If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory problems, Amen Clinics can help. Our experienced staff will help you learn more about your brain, support you in preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia and assist with early diagnosis and intervention.

If you’re ready to take control over your future, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Joel says:

    This is interesting. Is the research published? What does statistically significant correlation mean? Was a control group used too?

    • Sue says:

      A statistical correlation indicates the the likeihood that one factor affects the other. A statistically significant correlation means that random chance could not cause the study results. The higher the correlation the stronger the relationship is between the factors.

      A control group is only used when comparing a condition against the general population. It is looking for more general information like whether adding a supplement to your diet makes you healthier than the other people your age. This study was a comparison study between two conditions: high levels and low levels of Omega-3. It was looking for specific information about only those two conditions. Because they are more specific, comparison studies do not need a control group. However, that means you have to remember that the results do not tell you anything about how this relates to the average person. In this case, we have no way of knowing whether the average person has high or low levels of Omega-3. To find that out would require different type of study to look for that kind of information. So, while the results of this study are interesting, they cannot tell us whether we should consider taking a supplement or not.

      The research was published in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease”.

  2. Ruth says:

    Has your work with the brain given any more knowledge of migraine aura? The information available seems very very scarce.

  3. shirley says:

    What strength of supplement do you recommend?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Have a Question?