Food and Behaviour Research

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Omega-3 supplementation and loneliness-related memory problems: secondary analyses of a randomized controlled trial

Jaremka LM, Derry HM et al (2014) Psychosom Med. 2014 Oct  76(8) 650–658. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000104 

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Loneliness enhances risk for episodic memory declines over time. Omega-3 supplementation can improve cognitive function for people experiencing mild cognitive difficulties. Accordingly, we explored whether omega-3 supplementation would attenuate loneliness-related episodic memory problems.


Participants (n = 138) from a parent randomized controlled trial were randomized to the placebo, 1.25 grams/d of omega-3, or 2.50 grams/d of omega-3 conditions for a 4-month period. They completed a baseline loneliness questionnaire and a battery of cognitive tests both at baseline and at the end of the randomized controlled trial.


After adjustment for baseline verbal episodic memory scores, lonelier people within the placebo condition had poorer verbal episodic memory postsupplementation, as measured by immediate (b = -0.28, t (117) = -2.62, p = .010) and long-delay (b = -0.06, t (116) = -2.07, p = .040) free recall, than their less lonely counterparts. This effect was not observed in the 1.25- and 2.50-grams/d supplementation groups (all p values > .10). The plasma omega-6:omega-3 ratio data mirrored these results. There were no loneliness-related effects of omega-3 supplementation on short-delay recall or the other cognitive tests (all p values > .32).


These results suggest that omega-3 supplementation attenuates loneliness-related verbal episodic memory declines over time and support the use of exploring novel interventions for treating episodic memory problems among lonely people.