Older adults with age-related cognitive decline experience at least modest inefficiency in everyday functioning and have increased risk of developing dementia, in particular Alzheimer's disease (AD). With the expansion of the elderly population there is concern that the prevalence of AD may increase substantially beyond previous projections that ranged from 11 to 16 million affected individuals by the year 2050. Current pharmaceutical therapies provide only partial and transient symptomatic improvement and produce adverse responses in some individuals. At this time, early intervention represents the optimal approach for slowing or preventing further cognitive decline. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency represents a plausible pathoetiological mechanism for neuropathology associated with cognitive aging and dementia, and omega-3 fatty acid treatment has positive effects on a number of putative mechanisms of age-related decline. In addition, basic animal research during the last decade and very recent human preliminary data indicate that blueberry supplementation produces substantial neurobiological benefit and has the potential to ameliorate age-related cognitive decline. Further, there are indications that the combined effects of these nutraceutical approaches may offer more potent additive as well as complementary benefits aimed specifically at neurodegenerative mechanisms. Our long-term objective is to develop a nutraceutical intervention strategy that can be effective when applied with older adults experiencing age-related decline. In this investigation, we will evaluate the efficacy of combined omega-3 fatty acid and blueberry supplementation in improving memory function in elderly individuals with early memory changes. We propose a 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving daily supplementation with these nutraceutical products and longitudinal assessment up to one year after baseline. Our primary outcomes will be assessment of change in aspects of memory function and daily functioning in response to the intervention. We plan to use the findings of this study to support future, more comprehensive research examining mechanisms of action, dosage, and duration of effects in older adults. This proposal was generated in response to the NIA request for proposals to investigate novel, combined non-pharmaceutical interventions designed to improve cognitive function in older adults.

Public Health Relevance

Evidence-based treatments are urgently needed for elderly individuals with or at risk for age-related cognitive decline. As an initial step to establish early intervention and prevention strategies, this application proposes a double-bind placebo-controlled treatment trial to evaluate the neurocognitive benefits of combined omega-3 fatty acid and blueberries in elderly subjects at risk for age-related cognitive decline.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-5 (M1))
Program Officer
King, Jonathan W
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Cincinnati
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Boespflug, E L; McNamara, R K; Eliassen, J C et al. (2016) Fish Oil Supplementation Increases Event-Related Posterior Cingulate Activation in Older Adults with Subjective Memory Impairment. J Nutr Health Aging 20:161-9
McNamara, Robert K (2013) Deciphering the role of docosahexaenoic acid in brain maturation and pathology with magnetic resonance imaging. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 88:33-42
McNamara, Robert K; Strawn, Jeffrey R (2013) Role of Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Psychiatric Practice. PharmaNutrition 1:41-49
McNamara, Robert K; Magrisso, I Jack; Hofacer, Rylon et al. (2012) Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency augments risperidone-induced hepatic steatosis in rats: positive association with stearoyl-CoA desaturase. Pharmacol Res 66:283-91
McNamara, Robert K; Lotrich, Francis E (2012) Elevated immune-inflammatory signaling in mood disorders: a new therapeutic target? Expert Rev Neurother 12:1143-61