HEALTH

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids enhances cognitive flexibility, study suggests

BY Michael Johnsen

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A study of older adults at risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease found that those who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids did better than their peers on tests of cognitive flexibility – the ability to efficiently switch between tasks – and had a bigger anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region known to contribute to cognitive flexibility.
 
The analysis suggests, but does not prove, that consuming DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, enhanced cognitive flexibility in these adults in part by beefing up the anterior cingulate cortex, the researchers reported last week in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
 
"Recent research suggests that there is a critical link between nutritional deficiencies and the incidence of both cognitive impairment and degenerative neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease," said University of Illinois neuroscience, psychology, and speech and hearing science professor Aron Barbey, who led the study with student Marta Zamroziewicz. "Our findings add to the evidence that optimal nutrition helps preserve cognitive function, slow the progression of aging and reduce the incidence of debilitating diseases in healthy aging populations."
 
The researchers focused on aspects of brain function that are sometimes overlooked in research on aging, Zamroziewicz said. "A lot of work in cognitive aging focuses on memory, but in fact cognitive flexibility and other executive functions have been shown to better predict daily functioning than memory does," she said.
 
"Executive function" describes processes like planning, reasoning, paying attention, problem solving, impulse control and task switching.
 
"These functions tend to decline earlier than other cognitive functions in aging," Zamroziewicz said.
 
The new research built on previous studies that found associations between omega-3 fatty acid consumption, cognitive flexibility and the size of the anterior cingulate cortex.
 
"There's been some work to show that omega-3 fatty acids benefit cognitive flexibility, and there's also been work showing that cognitive flexibility is linked to this specific brain region, the anterior cingulate. But there's been very little work actually connecting these pieces," Zamroziewicz said.
 
The new study focused on 40 cognitively healthy older adults between the ages of 65 and 75 who are carriers of a gene variant (APOE e4) that is known to contribute to the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
 
The researchers tested participants' cognitive flexibility, measured levels of the fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in their blood, and imaged their brains using MRI. Statistical analyses teased out the relationships between these factors.
 
"We wanted to confirm that higher omega-3 fatty acids related to better cognitive flexibility, and we did in fact see that," Zamroziewicz said. "We also wanted to confirm that higher omega-3 fatty acids related to higher volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and we saw that. Finally, we were able to show that higher volume in the anterior cingulate cortex was an intermediary in the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive flexibility."
 
 
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Field Agent offers up key allergy insights in latest survey

BY Michael Johnsen

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – More than four in five consumers are planning on turning to the allergy aisle for relief of congestion or sneezing due to their allergies this year, but only one in four will have been influenced by a commercial in making their selection, according to the most recent Field Agent study, which recently surveyed more than 500 homeowners across five different U.s. regions on their allergy-related purchases. 
 
The survey, which was part of a broader look at lawn and garden purchasing, offered several allergy options for consumers to choose from: antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops, natural remedies, pain relievers, sore throat/cough medications and even air purifiers/humidifiers. When asked which, if any, they purchased or planned to purchase for the 2015 allergy season, across the country, regardless of region, households showed strong purchase behaviors or intentions toward allergy preventions and treatments.   
 
Antihistamines (e.g., Allegra, Claritin) easily topped decongestants, pain relievers, eye drops and sore throat/cough treatments as the most prevalent allergy prevention/treatment across the country. As many as 63% of respondents reported buying at least one antihistamine this year. Decongestants (44%) and pain relievers (42%) took second and third place, respectively. Consumers in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Southwest displayed similar antihistamine usage levels, while Westerners said they purchased or plan to purchase antihistamines somewhat below the national average.  
 
In fact, Westerners in Field Agent's sample purchased noticeably less medicine to combat allergies. For three categories, antihistamines (86% of the national average), decongestants (70%) and pain relievers (89%), consumers in the western United States report usage rates somewhat below other parts of the country. Compare this to Northwesterners, who purchase decongestants (e.g., Mucinex) at 128% and pain relievers (e.g., Tylenol) at 111% of the national average.
 
However, only 24% of respondents said they have purchased at least one allergy medication over another as the direct result of an advertisement. "Of course, consumers don’t always know when they’ve been influenced by an ad," Chris Medenwald, an assistant professor of marketing and management and a current member of Field Agent’s inbound marketing team, noted in a blog on the results.  "Advertising may work unconsciously — persuading someone to buy, or simply raising brand awareness, without their conscious attention. But for this study, 24% reported knowledge of a time they were influenced by an advertisement to purchase one allergy medication over another," he said. "And because some respondents were conscious of advertising’s influence on their allergy purchases, we asked these to tell us exactly why a specific advertisement had prompted their selection of one medication over another." 
 
According to Medenwald, some mentioned they were convinced by the situations portrayed in the advertisement. By way of example, a 50-year-old woman from Snellville, Georgia said, "The commercial showed situations that directly affect my life." Meanwhile, a 61-year-old woman from Austin, Texas commented on the sheer volume of advertisements run by a particular brand. She said, "I found the…commercials influential because they are so ubiquitous." While another, a 46-year-old female from Southhaven, Mississippi, suggested timing is everything. "It came on at a time when we needed to buy this type of medication so the brand name stuck with me," she said. 
 
"As you can see, the reasons why allergy medication advertisements may work — in the most direct, conscious way — vary from one consumer to another. But, for our sample, they do seem to work, for a good portion of consumers any way," Medenwald said. 
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ClickGOBite launches anti-itch device

BY Michael Johnsen

LA SALLE, Colo. – ClickGOBite on Wednesday released its ClickGOBite anti-itch device. According to the company, tiny quartz crystals in the patented device are activated when the button on the top of the device is clicked, creating a static charge that inactivates the antihistamine response abody has to a bug bite.
 
"Bites and stings can be easily treated at home by using ClickGOBite. It is the only FDA-approved medical device of its kind available in the United States," stated Caryn Sticher, co-founder of ClickGOBite.
 
The company is currently selling the device on its website for $12.99. 
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