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Mil Med. 2014 Apr;179(4):396-403. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00395.

Effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on neurocognitive functioning and mood in deployed U.S. soldiers: a pilot study.

Author information

  • 1Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness/Performance, Headquarters Department of the Army, 251 18th Street South, Suite 210, Crystal Park 5, Arlington, VA 22202.
  • 2Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center (WRNNMC), 8901 Wisconsin Boulevard, Bethesda, MD 20889.
  • 3Natural Science Division, Pepperdine University, 24255 Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263.
  • 4Consortium for Health and Military Performance, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814.
  • 5Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, 1400 W 22nd Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57105.


Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) may have neuroprotective properties for psychological health and cognition. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of omega-3 FAs (eicosapentaenoic + docosahexaenoic; Harris-Schacky [HS]-Omega-3 Index) on neuropsychological functioning among U.S. Soldiers deployed to Iraq. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included Soldiers between the ages of 18 and 55 years who were randomly assigned to either the active treatment group (n = 44) or placebo group (n = 34). Active treatment was 2.5 g per day of eicosapentaenoic + docosahexaenoic (Lovaza; GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina). The placebo was corn oil ethyl esters. HS-Omega-3 Index, a neurocognitive battery (Central Nervous System-Vital Signs, Morrisville, North Carolina), and psychological health scales were assessed at baseline and after 60 days of treatment. Although the results revealed that omega-3 FAs significantly increased the HS-Omega-3 Index (p = 0.001), there were no significant effects on indices psychological health and neurocognitive functioning by treatment group. Nevertheless, there was a significant inverse correlation between the changes in the HS-Omega-3 Index and daytime sleepiness (r = 0.30, p = 0.009). Short-term treatment with 2.5 g of omega-3 FAs did not alter measures of neurocognition or psychological health, but there was evidence of a relationship between omega-3 levels and daytime sleepiness.

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