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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2007 Oct;62(10):1120-6.

Low plasma N-3 fatty acids and dementia in older persons: the InCHIANTI study.

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Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.



N-3 fatty acids (FA) have an important role in brain development and function. However, there is conflicting evidence concerning the relationship between n-3 FA and dementia in older persons.


In the Invecchiare in Chianti (InCHIANTI) study, we measured plasma FA by gas chromatography in 935 community-dwelling older persons randomly extracted from the population of two towns near Florence, Italy. Cognitive impairment was measured using the Mini-Mental Status Examination. Participants who scored </=26 underwent a detailed clinical and neuropsychological evaluation. The diagnosis of dementia was based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Revision (DSM-III-R) criteria. The population was divided in three groups: persons with normal cognitive function, persons with cognitive impairment not demented, and persons with dementia.


After adjustment for age, gender, education, body mass index, weight loss, smoking status, cholesterol and triglycerides levels, daily intake of alcohol, FA and total energy, cardiovascular disease, depression and other FA levels, participants with dementia had significantly lower n-3 FA levels (2.9% vs 3.2%; p <.05), particularly alpha-linolenic acid levels (0.34% vs 0.39%; p <.05), than did participants with normal cognitive function.


Dementia is associated with low plasma n-3 FA relative concentrations. The possibility that higher n-3 FA intake is associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment should be further investigated in prospective studies.

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