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Diet May Influence Alzheimer's Risk

Mediterranean Diet, Fish Oil Could Lower Risk

Fatty Fish and Alzheimer's continued...

The overall results were disappointing, with no difference seen in the rate of mental decline between 204 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's diseaseAlzheimer's disease who did and did not take the supplements for six months.

But a positive benefit was seen among the 32 patients in the study with very mild mental decline identified at the beginning of the study. These patients experienced less rate of decline in mental function than similarly functioning patients who took placebo capsules that did not contain omega-3 fatty acid.

Patients who took the placebo capsules during the first six months of the trial were switched to the omega-3 supplements for another six months. During this second phase of the trial, patients with mild disease seemed to experience a slowing of disease progression.

Tommy Cederholm, MD, PhD, of Uppsala University Hospital characterizes the effect as "clinically relevant, but not dramatic," in an interview with WebMD.

"This could be a chance finding," he says. "We need larger studies to answer this question."

Several larger studies are under way, prompted by promising animal research and research showing a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease in populations that regularly eat omega-3-rich fish.

In the meantime, Cederholm says it is far too early to recommend fish oil supplements for people with Alzheimer's or those at risk for developing the disease. But he adds that eating fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and tuna regularly may help lower Alzheimer's risk and the risk of other chronic diseases.

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