Omega-3 Fatty Acid Slows Alzheimer’s
DHA-Rich Diet May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
WebMD News Archive
April 18, 2007 -- Eating a diet rich in a certain type of omega-3 fatty acid
may slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study in
Researchers found feeding mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease a diet
rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) slowed the accumulation of two proteins
associated with the brain-clogging plaques and tangles implicated in the
Previous studies have suggested that DHA may be useful as a treatment for
Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers say this study is among the first to
suggest that the omega-3 fatty acid might delay or prevent the development of
the disease later in life.
“We are greatly excited by these results, which show us that simple changes
in diet can positively alter the way the brain works and lead to protection
from Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” says researcher Frank LaFerla, professor
of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine, in a news
DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, organ meats, eggs,
micro-algae, and supplements.
DHA May Stall Alzheimer’s
In the study, researchers examined the effects of DHA in mice bred to
develop the plaques and brain tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The
results appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.
One group of mice was given food that resembled the typical American diet,
with 10 times more omega-6 fatty acids, such as those found in corn, peanut and
sunflower oils, than omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids that
people obtain from their diet. A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has been
linked to increased risk for many diseases.
Three other groups were fed diets with a healthier 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to
omega-3 fatty acids: One received supplemental DHA only, and the other two
groups received DHA plus additional omega-6 fatty acids. The amounts of
carbohydrate, protein, and calories were the same for all the diets.
After three months, all of the mice on the DHA diets had lower levels of
beta-amyloid and tau proteins than those in the control group. But at nine
months, only those on the DHA-only diet had lower levels of both proteins.
Researchers say those results suggest that DHA works better on its own than
with omega-6 fatty acids. They say additional studies on DHA in humans are now
needed to assess how well the omega-3 fatty acid might work against Alzheimer’s