Omega 3 Fish Oil and Alzheimer's Disease
by David McEvoy
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to improve mental function, mood, memory and
concentration and have already demonstrated considerable success in the treatment
of conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD and
ADHD. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer's, although research does indicate that
Omega 3 fatty acids can slow down the ageing of the brain and possibly delay the
onset as well as slow down the progress of Alzheimer's too.
One research team from Aberdeen and Edinburgh University led by Professor
Lawrence Whalley, questioned approximately 300 people aged 64 on their Omega 3
intake, they also tested their blood levels of Omega 3. The participants had previously
taken part in a survey on IQ in 1947 when they were 11 years old. They found that
those who had taken Omega 3 supplements showed better results on mental speed
tests and there was even an association between the results and the level of Omega
3 in the blood of the participants. The team reported that the evidence seemed to
suggest that Omega 3 could slow down the ageing of the brain and help it to work
Another study conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the effect of
Omega 3 fatty acids on patients who already had Alzheimer's disease. Researchers
gave 89 patients the Omega 3 fatty acids Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for a period of 6 months and another 85 were given a
placebo in the form of corn oil. After the initial 6-month period, the placebo group also
switched to Omega 3 for a further 6 months. Although there was no real differences
noted between the two groups in general, there was an interesting result where 32
patients who had milder mental impairment showed less of a decline whilst taking
The results of both these studies indicate that Omega 3 supplementation might not
only improve mental function in the twilight years, it could possibly be beneficial in
slowing down the progress of Alzheimer's disease, particularly in the early stages,
however, more research is required to substantiate this.
DHA deficiency and the "fatty acid paradox"
The brain is composed mostly of fat, in particular, the Omega 3 fatty acid
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of
dementia have shown very low concentrations of DHA in the brain indicating a possible
DHA deficiency. This has naturally led to the conclusion that supplementing with DHA
might offer therapeutic help.
However, what has been dubbed the "fatty acid paradox" is the belief that the best
way to correct any DHA deficiency is not by increasing intake of DHA as what one
might expect, but to increase intake of EPA instead. If enough EPA is present, the
body can produce DHA as required.
EPA is believed to inhibit the activity of the enzyme phospholipase A2. Over-activity of
this enzyme is associated with neurotoxicity and death of brain cells and is a feature
of Alzheimer's disease as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alois Alzheimer first identified Alzheimer's disease in the early 1900's. It affects over
half a million people in the UK alone. It is characterised by progressive mental decline
and begins with periods of memory loss, confusion, and personality changes before
proceeding to full-blown dementia with complete loss of most cognitive abilities and
even physical abilities. No one knows what causes it, it is irreversible and there is no
cure. It is relatively rare under 50 years of age but the chances of developing it
increase the older you become. Medication is aimed at slowing down the progression
of the disease. It is not the same as normal age-related cognitive decline where some
impairment in mental function is considered a normal part of the ageing process.
Although no evidence exists that Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation prevents you
from developing Alzheimer's disease, the indications are that increasing intake of
Omega 3 does decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life. There
are indeed many other health benefits afforded by getting an adequate amount of
Omega 3 in the diet including increased protection against cardiovascular disease,
arthritis and many other inflammatory conditions. Bearing in mind the toxicity risk
involved in eating too much fresh fish, supplementing with high quality fish oil would
seem the best way to gain the protective benefits associated with Omega 3 fatty
About The Author
Dave McEvoy is an expert in omega 3 fish oil EPA with over 20 years experience; for
more information about fish oil and how it can help come and visit.
Although no one knows what
causes Alzheimer's disease,
many research studies indicate
that those who regularly eat
fatty fish or who supplement
with fish oil have a lower risk of
developing Alzheimer's disease
later in life. Why this is the case
remains an interesting topic of
investigation but it is believed to
be due, at least in part, to the
role Omega 3 fatty acids play in
the general functioning of the
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