Supplements Don’t Fight Cognitive Decline, N.I.H. Study Says

Posted 03 September 2015

This article by Roni Caryn Rabin and published in the New York Times on 31 August 2015, refers to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, who randomly assigned participants to take a lutein/zeaxanthin supplement, a supplement of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA), both or a placebo. The study recruited more than 3,500 subjects with an average age of 73.

The researchers evaluated the subjects’ cognitive function when they enrolled and then every two years. At the end of the study, the researchers did not find any differences among groups that had taken supplements and the placebo group.

Continue reading at the New York Times


Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein/Zeaxanthin, or Other Nutrient Supplementation on Cognitive Function The AREDS2 Randomized Clinical Trial

Emily Y. Chew, MD1; Traci E. Clemons, PhD2; Elvira Agrón, MA1; Lenore J. Launer, PhD3; Francine Grodstein, ScD4,5; Paul S. Bernstein, MD, PhD6 ; for the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group

1Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, Clinical Trials Branch, National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland  2The EMMES Corporation, Rockville, Maryland  3Neuroepidemiology Section, National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland  4Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts  5Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts  6Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

August 25, 2015, Vol 314, No. 8

JAMA. 2015;314(8):791-801. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.9677.



Observational data have suggested that high dietary intake of saturated fat and low intake of vegetables may be associated with increased risk of Alzheimer disease.


To test the effects of oral supplementation with nutrients on cognitive function.

Design, Setting, and Participants

In a double-masked randomized clinical trial (the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 [AREDS2]), retinal specialists in 82 US academic and community medical centers enrolled and observed participants who were at risk for developing late age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from October 2006 to December 2012. In addition to annual eye examinations, several validated cognitive function tests were administered via telephone by trained personnel at baseline and every 2 years during the 5-year study.


Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) (1 g) and/or lutein (10 mg)/zeaxanthin (2 mg) vs placebo were tested in a factorial design. All participants were also given varying combinations of vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and zinc.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The main outcome was the yearly change in composite scores determined from a battery of cognitive function tests from baseline. The analyses, which were adjusted for baseline age, sex, race, history of hypertension, education, cognitive score, and depression score, evaluated the differences in the composite score between the treated vs untreated groups. The composite score provided an overall score for the battery, ranging from −22 to 17, with higher scores representing better function.


A total of 89% (3741/4203) of AREDS2 participants consented to the ancillary cognitive function study and 93.6% (3501/3741) underwent cognitive function testing. The mean (SD) age of the participants was 72.7 (7.7) years and 57.5% were women. There were no statistically significant differences in change of scores for participants randomized to receive supplements vs those who were not. The yearly change in the composite cognitive function score was −0.19 (99% CI, −0.25 to −0.13) for participants randomized to receive LCPUFAs vs −0.18 (99% CI, −0.24 to −0.12) for those randomized to no LCPUFAs (difference in yearly change, −0.03 [99% CI, −0.20 to 0.13]; P = .63). Similarly, the yearly change in the composite cognitive function score was −0.18 (99% CI, −0.24 to −0.11) for participants randomized to receive lutein/zeaxanthin vs −0.19 (99% CI, −0.25 to −0.13) for those randomized to not receive lutein/zeaxanthin (difference in yearly change, 0.03 [99% CI, −0.14 to 0.19]; P = .66). Analyses were also conducted to assess for potential interactions between LCPUFAs and lutein/zeaxanthin and none were found to be significant.

Conclusions and Relevance

Among older persons with AMD, oral supplementation with LCPUFAs or lutein/zeaxanthin had no statistically significant effect on cognitive function.

Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00345176

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