The Memory Improvement with Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Study (MIDAS) published online this week in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association showed that algal DHA improved memory function in healthy aging adults, providing a benefit roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger.
MIDAS is the first large, randomized and placebo-controlled study demonstrating the benefits of algal DHA in maintaining and improving brain health in older adults. The goal of MIDAS was to evaluate the effects of algal DHA on cognitive outcomes in healthy elderly people with a mild memory complaint. The study was funded by Martek Biosciences.
MIDAS found that healthy people with memory complaints who took 900 mg algal DHA capsules for six months had almost double the reduction in errors on a test that measures learning and memory performance versus those who took a placebo, a benefit roughly equivalent to having the learning and memory skills of someone three years younger. The DHA was well-tolerated and subjects taking the DHA also experienced a lower heart rate, providing a significant cardiovascular benefit.
The study population included 485 people 55 and older at 19 U.S. sites who were considered to have age-related cognitive decline. Age-related cognitive decline is defined as decline in cognitive functioning consequent to the aging process that is within normal limits given a person's age. For example, individuals may report problems remembering names or appointments or may experience difficulty solving complex problems.
MIDAS study participants consumed an oral dose of 900 mg per day of algal DHA or a placebo (corn/soy) over the course of six months. The primary endpoint was a cognitive test of memory and learning called the CANTAB Paired Associate Learning (PAL). CANTAB PAL is an assessment of visual memory and new learning, and is a useful tool for assessing patients with age-related memory loss.
"The fear of memory loss and losing brain capacity looms large in the minds of boomers," said renowned neurologist and memory expert, Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D., author of "The Memory Cure." "But as MIDAS demonstrates in a clinical setting, there are some simple things you can do to maintain and even improve your brain health as you age – like taking 900 mg of algal DHA every day."
DHA is a structural omega-3 fatty acid in the brain that has been shown in epidemiological, preclinical, and now in clinical research to support brain health. Yet, despite DHA's importance, most people eating a Western diet consume low amounts of DHA.
The source of DHA used in MIDAS was a vegetarian and sustainable algal DHA produced by Martek Biosciences, and marketed to consumers under the brand name of life'sDHA™. Algal DHA supplements that will enable consumers to easily achieve daily algal DHA intake comparable to the amount used in this study can be found at major drugstores and retailers under the Algal-900™ product name and carrying the life'sDHA logo.
"Up to one third of the more than 75 million baby boomers in the U.S. will experience a gradual decline in cognitive function as they age," said Dr. Edward B. Nelson, medical director for Martek and co-author of the study. "MIDAS is significant because it shows for the first time that taking 900 mg of algal DHA daily may have a very meaningful and important impact on cognitive function in the aging population."
"We have known for a long time based on the strong body of epidemiological research that DHA may play an important role in cognitive function, particularly in the aging population," said. Dr. Karin Yurko-Mauro, associate director of clinical research for Martek and project lead of MIDAS. "With MIDAS, we now have clinical evidence to indicate that 900 mg of algal DHA improves memory and learning in aging adults."
Martek Biosciences Corporation