Omega-3: Ties to Adolescent Cognitive Performance

By: Amanda Blount, Global Regulatory Affairs Specialist

Omega-3 is one of the most vital essential fatty acids which can be provided through fish oil and certain plants and nut oils. While we know of its importance, recent research has revealed that omega-3 is associated with the cognitive performance in adolescents.

What it is:

Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Certain nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which may be transformed into DHA and EPA in the body.

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and especially DHA and EPA are involved in many aspects of brain functionality such as neuronal membrane fluidity, neurotransmission, signal transduction, brain blood flow, and blood-brain barrier integrity. Recent data published in Nutrients pointed out that every 1% increase in the Omega-3 Index was associated with an increase of cognitive performance using different tests.


What it Does:

The main focus of the study was to investigate the association between the Omega-3 Index measured in blood and cognitive performance of 14-year-old adolescents. The Omega-3 Index was significantly associated with better information processing speeds. During adolescence, the brain undergoes development which continues until after age 20 which is a period when LCPUFAs could be of special importance.

Several studies of association between fish intake and cognitive functioning in adolescents have shown an overall beneficial association with adolescents who regularly consume fish, as they have exhibited significantly better academic performance than peers who never or hardly ever consumed fish.




2016 Volume 8, Number 1, 13 doi:10.3390/nu8010013

“Association between Blood Omega-3 Index and Cognition in Typically Developing Dutch Adolescents”

Authors: I.S.M. Van Der Wurff, et al.