Cognitive decline in the elderly, particularly Alzheimer's disease (AD), is a major socio-economic and healthcare concern. We review here the literature on one specific aspect of diet affecting AD, that of the omega3 fatty acids, particularly the brain's principle omega3 fatty acid - docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

DHA has deservedly received wide attention as a nutrient supporting both optimal brain development and for cardiovascular health. Our aim here is to critically assess the quality of the present literature as well as the potential of omega3 fatty acids to treat or delay the onset of AD.

We start with a brief description of cognitive decline in the elderly, followed by an overview of well recognized biological functions of DHA. We then turn to epidemiological studies, which are largely supportive of protective effects of fish and DHA against risk of AD.

However, biological studies, including blood and brain DHA analyses need careful interpretation and further investigation, without which the success of clinical trials with DHA may continue to struggle. We draw attention to some of the methodological issues that need resolution as well as an emerging mechanism that may explain how DHA could be linked to protecting brain function in the elderly.