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The OPAL Study

For Participants Issue Number 1 November 2005

Welcome from Alan Dangour (Chief Investigator)

There is a wide-spread popular belief that fish is good for your brain. However, there is
currently no good quality scientific evidence to support this belief (whatever you might see on
television!). The Older People And n-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (OPAL) study
is the first large study to try to determine whether daily consumption of the two most important
oils in fish has an effect on memory and concentration in older people. I am grateful to you
for your involvement in this study, the findings of which will have important implications for
healthcare globally.

OPAL Study Update

The OPAL study has now been running
since April 2005. Every 6 months we plan
to write a newsletter for you to let you
know how the study is proceeding.

More than 800 participants are currently

taking part in OPAL, and once we have
recruited a few more participants from our
clinics in the London area we will have
recruited the total sample we need for the
study. Participants have been recruited to
take part in OPAL from all over England
and Wales. The towns in which OPAL
clinics are located are shown on the map.

Your help and support is vital to the

success of OPAL, and the OPAL team
would like to say a huge THANK YOU for
taking the time to help us with this
extremely important study.

The OPAL team are delighted that you are taking part in the study. The nurses in the GP’s
clinic will continue to see you every 3 months until the study ends. All the information you
provide is extremely useful to us.

The OPAL Study

Older People And n-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids General
Funded by the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency Research
ISRCTN 72331636 Framework
Further information contact 020-7670 4865 or visit

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This is the London School of

Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
(LSHTM). Some of the OPAL
team work here.

The OPAL Team

Staff at LSHTM

Front row:
From left: Koro Diallo and
Deborah Peircy work on
data coordinating and data
entry & Ann Truesdale is a
member of the project

Back row: Alan Dangour

is the Chief Investigator

Staff at GPRF

From left:
Carole Maguire is the
study administrator,
Rosemary Knight is
the study manager,
Nicky Fasey is the
senior research nurse
& Eric Bissoon is
responsible for the
computer systems

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What is in the capsules

I have been taking for Taking the capsules
We often receive feedback from the practice
During the OPAL study, you will take the same nurses, which is extremely valuable and
capsules for 24 months. The capsules contain helps us with the progress of the study. For
either: example, we know that a few of you have
experienced some difficulty swallowing the
oil from fish (what we call the active ingredient)
capsules. Here are a couple of tips which
OR some of you have passed on:

olive oil (what we call the placebo) Try taking the capsules with warmish water
rather than cold water.
The study is designed to be “double blind”.
This means that you don’t know what you are Try leaving the 2 capsules that you are
taking and neither does your nurse or doctor. going to take out of the pot, for a few hours.
In fact, only 2 people in London know what This helps to soften them up and they are
capsules you are taking. Studies are designed easier to swallow.
in this “double blind” manner so that neither
If you are feeling bloated try taking them at
you nor your nurse are influenced by knowing
what capsules you are taking.
However it is very important that you do tell
At the end of the study we would like to know
the nurse at the practice if you are
what capsules you think you have been taking.
experiencing any discomfort from taking the
The practice nurse will discuss this with you
further at your final appointment.

Please remember to take 2 capsules every


who then applied to the UK General Practice Research

Who is on the Food Standards Agency Framework (GPRF). This
OPAL team for funding to carry it out. is a large group of General
and what do Alan is a lecturer in Practices located around
nutrition-related chronic the UK which are
we do? disease at LSHTM and interested in taking part in
Alan Dangour, who is specialises in nutritional research such as the
pictured on page 2 is the needs of older people. OPAL study. Your
Chief Investigator on the practice is a member of
study. The study was OPAL is run through the the framework.
originally proposed by Alan Medical Research Council

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The Medical Research other projects including authorised OPAL staff.

Council was established by OPAL.
Royal Charter in 1920 to Staff at the GPRF and
carry out research. Medical The staff at the London LSTHM work very closely
research is extremely School of Hygiene & together and hold regular
important as it enables Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) meetings to discuss study
doctors and nurses to find are mostly involved in progress and address any
the most effective methods checking and analysing the issues that arise.
of treating people. A information that you
valuable part of the provide the nurses. All The study is continually
research is carried out data that are seen by staff assessed by two
within the GPRF. at LSHTM are independent panels of
The staff at the GPRF deal anonymous—this means experts who ensure that
with the day to day running that LSHTM staff do not OPAL is being carried out
of the study and are know who provided the to the highest possible
responsible for most information. All the standards and that it is safe
aspects, particularly information that you for participants to take part
Rosemary and Carole who provide is stored in a in the study.
work solely on OPAL. The locked room which is
other staff work on many accessible only to

Your opinion counts!

We hope that you have enjoyed reading newsletters, or if there is anything you
the newsletter. You will receive another would like added to the website. You
newsletter from your nurse in about 6 can do this either by discussing your
months. If you have access to the ideas with the OPAL nurse at your next
internet, you might like to look at the appointment, or by writing directly to the
study website: OPAL office. The address is:
which is full of interesting information. Rosemary Knight, MRC General
Practice Research Framework,
Please let us know if there is anything Stephenson House, 158-160 North
you would like to see in future Gower Street, London NW1 2ND.

Thank you once again for agreeing to take part in

the OPAL study!

The OPAL Study

Older People And n-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids General
Funded by the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency Research
ISRCTN 72331636 Framework
Further information contact 020-7670 4865 or visit