DHA and improvement of memory function: evaluation of a health claim pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006
Following an application from DSM Nutritional Products, submitted for authorisation of a health claim pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 via the Competent Authority of the United Kingdom, the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and improvement of memory function. DHA is sufficiently characterised. An improvement of memory function is a beneficial physiological effect. In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that, out of the 11 human intervention studies from which conclusions can be drawn for the scientific substantiation of the claim, two studies showed a beneficial effect of DHA supplementation on memory function, one study showed inconsistent results, one study showed a negative effect of DHA on memory function and seven studies did not show an effect of DHA on memory outcomes. The Panel considers that the majority of the human intervention studies provided did not show an effect of DHA supplementation on memory, and that the conflicting results across studies cannot be explained by differences in the study design, the source of DHA, the DHA dose, the baseline characteristics of the subjects recruited, or the duration of the studies. The Panel also took into account that the meta-analyses of intervention studies submitted by the applicant do not provide evidence for an effect of DHA on memory function, and that the three observational studies from which conclusions could be drawn for the scientific substantiation of the claim do not provide evidence for an association between dietary DHA and memory function. The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of DHA and an improvement of memory function.