Science Says: Fish Oil Improves Memory

Once again fish oil turns out to be one of the best things you can do for yourself. New research shows it improves your memory, but you need to make sure you're taking enough.

Fish oil is touted as improving everything from body composition to athletic performance to memory. Barry Sears, the inventor of the Zone Diet, said “it’s as close to a miracle drug as I’ll see in my lifetime.” A recent study of mature men and women further supports the claim that fish oil promotes better memory.

The study examined 44 Swedish men and women from age 51-72. The test group was given a hefty dose of fish oil each day. The control group was given placebos and a reassuring smile. The two groups then sparred in an epic battle of wits called a “working memory test.” The fish oil group beat the placebo group every single time. Additionally, the fish oil group showed lower triglycerides and blood pressure. That’s three big wins for fish oil.

This follows a 2008 study that failed to show an improvement in brain function in elderly subjects taking fish oil. However, the 2008 study dosed with a mere 1.8g of fish oil daily containing 400mg of EPA and DHA. The test group in the current study was given 5g of fish oil daily containing a total of 2550mg of EPA and DHA. Science bears out what I’ve been telling my athletes for years: you must take a lot of fish oil to counteract all the nasty omega-6 fatty acids in the western diet. Yes, I understand the bottle says to take one capsule daily. I am smarter than the bottle. I promise.

When selecting fish oil, pay attention to the EPA and DHA content. Those are the omega-3 fatty acids you really want. If your brand of fish oil doesn’t have at least 600mg of EPA and DHA per capsule, then find one that does. If your brand of fish oil doesn’t report EPA and DHA content on the label, then find one that does. Life is too short to take terrible fish oil.


1. Nilsson, Anne, et. Al. “Effects of supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive performance and cardiometabolic risk markers in healthy 51 to 72 year old subjects: a randomized controlled cross-over study.” Nutrition Journal 11:99, 2012.

2. Van de Rest, O, et. al. “Effect of fish oil on cognitive performance in older subjects: a randomized, controlled trial.” Neurology 2008, 71(6):430–438.

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