Omega-3 fatty acids and blood-based biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment: A randomized placebo-controlled trial

Pan Yen Lin, Chin Cheng, Senthil Kumaran Satyanarayanan, Lu Ting Chiu, Yu Chuan Chien, Chih Pin Chuu, Tsuo Hung Lan*, Kuan Pin Su

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Increased serum levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers are consistently associated with cognitive decline. The omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) had been linked to slowing cognitive decline due to their potential anti-inflammatory effects. To our knowledge, the different regiments of pure DHA, pure EPA, and their combination on various associated symptoms of dementia, including a mild form of cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD), have never been studied. Methods: This multisite, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted at two veteran's retirement centers and one medical center in central Taiwan between 2013 and 2015. 163 MCI or AD patients were randomly assigned to placebo (n = 40), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 0.7 g/day, n = 41), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 1.6 g/day, n = 40), or EPA (0.8 g/day) + DHA (0.35 g/day) (n = 42) group for 24 months. The results were measured as the cognitive and functional abilities, biochemical, and inflammatory cytokines profiles. Chi-square tests, two-sample t-test, ANOVA, and linear mixedeffects models were conducted with p < 0.05. Results: 131 (80%) participants had completed the trial with all cognitive, functional, and mood status assessments. The statistically significant difference between the placebo and treatment groups was not determined, concerning the changes in cognitive, functional, and mood status scores, the biochemical profiles, and inflammatory cytokines levels. However, EPA was found to reduce the C–C motif ligands 4 (CCL4) level (p < 0.001). Additionally, EPA could reduce the constructional praxis (p < 0.05) and spoken language ability scores (p < 0.01), and DHA also reduced the spoken language ability score (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Overall, n-3 PUFAs supplements did not reduce cognitive, functional, and depressive symptom outcomes, but spoken language ability and constructional praxis subitems of ADAS-cog. These findings show that attention to clinical heterogeneity in dementia is crucial when studying nutrients interventions, such as n-3 PUFAs. In addition, with small effect size CCL4 is a better indicator than other inflammatory cytokines for EPA treatment response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Cognition
  • Dementia
  • Inflammatory cytokines
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs)


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