Food and Behaviour Research

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Effects of fish oil and curcumin supplementation on cerebrovascular function in older adults: a randomized controlled trial

Kuszewski JC, Wong RHX, Wood LG, Howe PRC (2020) NMCD 2020 Jan; 

Web URL: Read the abstract on here



  • Impaired cerebrovascular function contributes to cognitive decline in the elderly
  • Bioactive nutrient supplementation might counteract cerebrovascular dysfunction
  • Fish oil improved several cardiovascular biomarkers in overweight/obese adults
  • Fish oil also reduced an index of cerebral artery stiffness in males only
  • Curcumin did not affect measured outcomes, either alone or combined with fish oil.

Background and Aims: 
Chronic conditions such as obesity, which contribute to endothelial dysfunction in older adults, can cause impairments in cerebrovascular perfusion, which is associated with accelerated cognitive decline. Supplementing the diet with bioactive nutrients that can enhance endothelial function, such as fish oil or curcumin, may help to counteract cerebrovascular dysfunction.

Methods and Results: 
A 16-week double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial was undertaken in 152 older sedentary overweight/obese adults (50-80 years, body mass index: 25-40kg/m2) to investigate effects of fish oil (2000mg docosahexaenoic acid + 400mg eicosapentaenoic acid/day), curcumin (160mg/day) or a combination of both on cerebrovascular function (measured by Transcranial Doppler ultrasound), systemic vascular function (blood pressure, heart rate and arterial compliance) and cardiometabolic (fasting glucose and blood lipids) and inflammatory (C-reactive protein) biomarkers. The primary outcome, cerebrovascular responsiveness to hypercapnia, was not affected by the interventions. However, cerebral artery stiffness was significantly reduced in males following fish oil supplementation (P=0.007). Furthermore, fish oil reduced heart rate (P=0.038) and serum triglycerides (P=0.006) and increased HDL cholesterol (P=0.002). Curcumin did not significantly affect these outcomes either alone or in combination with fish oil.

Regular supplementation with fish oil but not curcumin improved biomarkers of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular function. The combined supplementation did not result in additional benefits. Further studies are warranted to identify an efficacious curcumin dose and to characterize (in terms of sex, BMI, cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors) populations whose cerebrovascular and cognitive functions might benefit from either intervention.


See the associated news article:

And for more information on the importance of omega-3 for healthy brain ageing i.e. the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia, see: