The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are a unique class of fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body, and must be acquired via dietary sources. In the UK, as well as in other Western nations, these ‘essential’ fatty acids are consumed in quantities that fall below government guidelines. This thesis examined the relationship between n-3 PUFAs and cognitive function and mood in healthy children (8-10 years) and adults (18-35 years), with a view to evaluate their efficacy for cognitive and mood enhancement in these populations. A second aim was to evaluate the effects of n-3 PUFAs on cerebral hemodynamics, a novel line of enquiry. Chapters 2 and 4 describe novel intervention studies that assessed the effects of n- 3 PUFA supplements on cognitive function and mood in healthy children and adults, respectively. In Chapter 3, the relationship between peripheral PUFA concentrations, a correlate of dietary PUFA intake, and cognitive and function and mood was examined for the first time in healthy adults. Chapter 5 describes a pilot trial in which Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) imaging technique was applied to investigate the cerebral hemodynamic effects of n-3 PUFA supplements. The results of this study were explored in more detail in Chapter 6, with the additional inclusion of parallel cognitive measures. Most notably, the behavioural data from the intervention studies described herein do not support the use of n-3 PUFA supplements for cognitive and mood enhancement in healthy children and adults not consuming appreciable amounts of oily fish. However, the results do suggest that supplementation with dietary n-3 PUFAs has an impact on peripheral fatty acid status and cerebral hemodynamics in healthy adults. Taken together, these findings suggest that, in healthy, cognitively intact individuals, short-term use of n-3 PUFA supplements has a minimal effect on behaviour; the impact of long-term n-3 PUFA dietary intake or supplement use over the course of the entire lifespan on behaviour should be addressed further.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 13 Aug 2010|