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Fish Oil Linked to Larger Brains

Update Date: Jan 22, 2014 06:03 PM EST

Fish oil preserves brain health, a new study suggests.

New research reveals that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids also have larger brain volumes in old age. Scientists said this effect is equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health.

Previous studies have linked shrinking brain volume to normal aging and Alzheimer's disease.

The latest study involved 1,111 women who were part of the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. Researchers measured the level of omega-3 fatty acids EPA+DHA in participants' red blood cells.

Eight years later, the women, who were on average 78 years old, had their brain volume measured by MRI scans.

The findings revealed that women with higher levels of omega-3s had larger total brain volumes eight years later.

Study results revealed that women with twice as high levels of fatty acids (7.5 vs. 3.4 percent) had a 0.7 percent larger brain volume. Women with higher levels of omega-3s also had a 2.7 percent larger volume in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays an important role in memory.

"These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years," study author James V. Pottala, PhD, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., said in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal Neurology

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