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The older people, omega-3, and cognitive health (EPOCH) trial design and methodology: A randomised, double-blind, controlled trial investigating the effect of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive ageing and wellbeing in cognitively healthy older adults

Vanessa Danthiir1*, Nicholas R Burns2, Ted Nettelbeck2, Carlene Wilson14 and Gary Wittert3

Author Affiliations

1 Preventative Health Research Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - Food and Nutritional Sciences, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

2 School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

3 School of Medicine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

4 School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:117  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-117

Published: 20 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Some studies have suggested an association between omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC PUFAs) and better cognitive outcomes in older adults. To date, only two randomised, controlled trials have assessed the effect of n-3 LC PUFA supplementation on cognitive function in older cognitively healthy populations. Of these trials only one found a benefit, in the subgroup carrying the ApoE-ε4 allele. The benefits of n-3 LC PUFA supplementation on cognitive function in older normal populations thus still remain unclear. The main objective of the current study was to provide a comprehensive assessment of the potential of n-3 LC PUFAs to slow cognitive decline in normal elderly people, and included ApoE-ε4 allele carriage as a potential moderating factor. The detailed methodology of the trial is reported herein.

Methods

The study was a parallel, 18-month, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention with assessment at baseline and repeated 6-monthly. Participants (N = 391, 53.7% female) aged 65-90 years, English-speaking and with normal cognitive function, were recruited from metropolitan Adelaide, South Australia. Participants in the intervention arm received capsules containing fish-oil at a daily dosage of 1720 mg of docosahexaenoic acid and 600 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid while the placebo arm received the equivalent amount of olive oil in their capsules. The primary outcome is rate of change in cognitive performance, as measured by latent variables for the cognitive constructs (encompassing Reasoning, Working Memory, Short-term Memory, Retrieval Fluency, Inhibition, Simple and Choice-Reaction Time, Perceptual Speed, Odd-man-out Reaction Time, Speed of Memory Scanning, and Psychomotor Speed) and assessed by latent growth curve modeling. Secondary outcomes are change in the Mini-mental State Examination, functional capacity and well-being (including health status, depression, mood, and self-report cognitive functioning), blood pressure, and biomarkers of n-3 LC PUFA status, glucose, lipid metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, and DNA damage.

Trial registration

Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12607000278437