DHA Improves Memory in Healthy Adults

DHA Improves Memory in Healthy Adults

DHA Improves Memory in Healthy Adults

The Memory Improvement with Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Study (MIDAS) has showed that algal DHA improves memory function in healthy aging adults. This provides a benefit roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger.

MIDAS is the first large, randomised and placebo-controlled study demonstrating the benefits of algal DHA in maintaining and improving brain health in older adults. The goal of MIDAS was to evaluate the effects of algal DHA on cognitive outcomes in healthy elderly people with a mild memory complaint. The study was funded by Martek Biosciences. The results were published online, in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

MIDAS found that healthy people with memory complaints who took 900 mg algal DHA capsules for six months had almost double the reduction in errors on a test that measures learning and memory performance versus those who took a placebo, a benefit roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger. The DHA was well-tolerated and subjects taking the DHA also experienced a lower heart rate, providing a significant cardiovascular benefit.

The study population included 485 people age 55 and older who were considered to have age-related cognitive decline. Age-related cognitive decline is defined as decline in cognitive functioning consequent to the aging process that is within normal limits given a person's age. For example, individuals may report problems remembering names or appointments or may experience difficulty solving complex problems.

MIDAS study participants consumed an oral dose of 900 mg per day of algal DHA or a placebo (corn/soy) over the course of six months. The primary endpoint was a cognitive test of memory and learning.

DHA is a structural omega-3 fatty acid in the brain that has been shown in epidemiological, preclinical, and now in clinical research to support brain health. Yet, despite DHA's importance, most people eating a Western diet consume low amounts of DHA.

"We have known for a long time based on the strong body of epidemiological research that DHA may play an important role in cognitive function, particularly in the aging population," said. Dr. Karin Yurko-Mauro, associate director of clinical research for Martek and project lead of MIDAS. "With MIDAS, we now have clinical evidence to indicate that 900 mg of algal DHA improves memory and learning in aging adults."

The source of DHA used in MIDAS was a vegetarian and sustainable algal DHA produced by Martek Biosciences, and marketed to consumers under the brand name of life'sDHA™. Foods fortified with life'sDHA™, such as eggs and milk, are available in supermarkets around Australia.

Forget Me Not - Tips for keeping your mind sharp
In light of the MIDAS findings Australian's who are concerned about age-related cognitive decline should consider increasing their intake of omega-3 DHA through a range of dietary means including:

  • Eating at least 2-3 (150g) serves of fish each week. Try smoked salmon on toast for breakfast, add a can of tuna to your pasta or put some sardines on dry biscuits for a healthy snack.
  • Adding foods which are fortified with algal DHA, e.g. milk and eggs, to your daily meal plan. Try using DHA fortified milk on your breakfast cereal, or use DHA fortified eggs to make a healthy lunchtime omelette.
  • Taking an omega-3 supplement daily.
  • See an Accredited Practising Dietitian to ensure that you are getting the amount of DHA that you need in your diet.

    Courtesy of Accredited Practising Dietitian Melanie McGrice

    DHA omega-3 is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that serves as a primary building block for the brain and the eyes and supports brain, eye and cardiovascular health throughout life. There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that people of all ages benefit from an adequate supply of DHA omega-3 in their diets. Scientific reviews have highlighted the importance of DHA omega-3 in proper brain and eye development and function, as well as its importance in cardiovascular health. Leading experts around the world have noted that DHA is an important nutrient for health throughout the life cycle.

    Fish are often incorrectly thought to be the only source of DHA omega-3. However, life'sDHA offers a trusted, vegetarian form of algal DHA that contains no oceanic pollutants or toxins. Fish are sources of DHA because of the DHA-rich microalgae in their food chain; life'sDHA is derived directly from microalgae, a renewable, sustainable source of DHA that does not deplete ocean resources, and is produced entirely in the U.S. in an FDA-inspected facility.

    Martek Biosciences Corporation was founded in 1985 and is a leader in the innovation and development of life-science-based products that promote health and wellness through every stage of life. Martek produces life'sDHA™, a vegetarian and sustainable source of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, now available for use in food and beverages in Australia.

    For more information about life'sDHA and Martek go to: www.lifesdha.com.au

    Interview with Melanie McGrice

    Melanie McGrice is an Australian Accredited Practicising Dietician.

    What should adults, 55 and older, be incorporating in their diet to help prevent memory loss?

    Melanie McGrice: First of all we want to ensure that people are meeting their fish consumption requirements, a serving size of 120g needs to be included into the diet about three times a week. Secondly, they need to choose foods that are enriched with DHA Omega-3; there are products available with what is called life'sDHA™ which is derived directly from the algae, so it is a pure source of DHA that is added to products such as eggs, milk and yoghurt to fortify those foods and increase the omega-3 consumption. Thirdly, the other option, if you are not meeting all your dietary requirements would be to take some nutritional supplements.


    Should DHA omega-3 be incorporated in diets of those under 55?

    Melanie McGrice: Absolutely! The recent research has shown the benefits of DHA for memory, but there is also a lot of research that suggests that it is important, particularly for brain development, in children, which is a crucial area. As well as for the rest of us who are struggling with our memory.


    In general are Australians consuming enough long-chain omega-3 fatty acids?

    Melanie McGrice: No, in general one in two Australians are not meeting their requirements, it is a real issue in Australia that people are not consuming enough DHA omega-3 rich foods.


    Why is it that Western diets commonly don't consume enough DHA?

    Melanie McGrice: It is our culture and the types of foods that we are used to eating. Particularly now people are relying on convenience foods. People tend to either have really large portions of meat or carbohydrate based-meals, including rice.


    Do you believe fish isn't a convenient food?

    Melanie McGrice: When you think about it, fish is a really quick and easy food to be preparing. You can certainly buy frozen fish, which is even quicker.


    Do you suggest another regions diet, such as a Mediterranean diet; fish, lean meats, olive oil and salads?

    Melanie McGrice: The Mediterranean diet is a great example because it does include more fish as well as including more nuts, good oils, legumes, veggies and wholegrains. That is a good model to follow.


    How much DHA do we need in our diet, to not need to take a supplement?

    Melanie McGrice: It depends on your own medical condition. That is where it is always really good for people who are unsure what they should be having in their diet, is to get personalised advice from an accredited and practicing dietician.

    Some people need increased amounts of omega-3 DHA, for example if they are at a higher risk of heart disease, as both their parents died of heart disease, or if they have high cholesterol levels or diabetes they need more omega-3 DHA.

    If someone is planning on getting pregnant, or is pregnant or breastfeeding that is another time where it is important to have more omega-3 DHA. Children and as we said, people over 55 who have having more and more memory problems, will benefit from additional amounts of omega-3 DHA.


    Do you have a recipe that is easy but is high in omega-3 DHA?

    Melanie McGrice: Yes, I would recommend for something quick and easy, either frozen fish or with the omega-3 DHA fortified eggs have a scrambled or boiled egg on a piece of toasted wholegrain for breakfast, this will increase your omega-3 DHA consumption.


    How do we look out for these products that are fortified with algal DHA?

    Melanie McGrice: You just need to look for the symbol that says 'life'sDHA™' and then you know it is going to be a product that has plenty of additional DHA.


    Are these products available in our local supermarket?

    Melanie McGrice: Yes, absolutely.


    Interview: Brooke Hunter




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