N-3 Fatty Acids, Cognition and Brain Health
The organisers were delighted and extremely grateful to the Rank Prize committee for agreeing to support this in-person meeting, after the originally planned event was moved online in 2021.
Although a number of the delegates from the previous meeting were able to attend again, this conference was more than a simple ‘do-over’ and was able to capture the essence of the most up to date research across an interdisciplinary network of related fields. At the top level, the aim of the meeting was to explore and try to understand the mismatch between the epidemiological and preclinical evidence showing a benefit of consuming omega-3 fatty acids on cognition and mental health, and the overall lacklustre results from randomised controlled efficacy trials. To address this issue, we took a deep dive into the design of existing research, metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids and the systematic and brain physiological and molecular impact of omega-3 fatty acids, the effects of genotype, and how all these systems interact and relate to cognition, mood, anxiety and behaviour.
This conference provided the perfect opportunity to bring scientists at different stages of their career together for a healthy debate […]. The meeting delegates aim to publish a position paper summarising some of these key points and to set a course of travel for further research in the area.”
Over the three days, one of the recurring themes was that we still lack robust markers and functional testing approaches to detect the very early stages of cognitive decline and the protective benefits of intervention, with significant progress fields such as lipidomics, inflammatory markers and and cognitive assessment tools presented. Lessons learned from the previous era of clinical trials assessing the effects of omega-3 on cognition and mental health were also discussed at length, ensuring that future intervention studies will be more appropriately designed, but may require leveraging the full funding power of government bodies to achieve. It was also important that we heard from colleagues involved in public health; simply knowing more about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is useless if people are not going to, or able to follow dietary advice. It is important that we get the messaging right so that people really care about their brain health. The meeting delegates aim to publish a position paper summarising some of these key points and to set a course of travel for further research in the area.
This conference provided the perfect opportunity to bring scientists at different stages of their career together for a healthy debate on these matters. Fortunately, the sun shone over Grasmere for the full three days, making the coffee breaks on the lawn and organised walk around the lake especially enjoyable, and created the perfect relaxed environment for delegates to engage in meaningful discussions and create connections which will undoubtedly lead to future work.
Dr Philippa Jackson (Northumbria University)
Professor Anne Marie Minihane (University of East Anglia, Rank Prize Nutrition Committee)