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Fish Oil Prevents Alzheimer's Plaques

Brain Needs Fish Oil Fatty Acid to Make Plaque-Fighting Protein

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on December 26, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 26, 2007 -- Why does fish oil help prevent Alzheimer's disease? Your brain needs a fish oil fatty acid to make a plaque-fighting protein, UCLA researchers find.

It's known that people who get plenty of DHA, a fish oil fatty acid, have a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, note Greg M. Cole, PhD, associate director of the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, and colleagues.

Why? Cole's team had a clue. People with Alzheimer's disease tend to have low levels of a brain protein called LR11 (also known as SorLA). And about 15% of people with Alzheimer's disease carry a genetic mutation that reduces LR11.

LR11 helps clear the brain of amyloid precursor protein, essential for production of the brain-gumming beta-amyloid plaque that clogs the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Sure enough, in live rodents and in cultures of human brain cells, the researchers found that the fish-oil compound DHA causes brain cells to make lots more LR11.

"Because reduced LR11 is known to increase beta amyloid production and may be a significant genetic cause of late-onset Alzheimer's disease, our results indicate that DHA increases in LR11 levels may play an important role in preventing late-onset Alzheimer's disease," Cole and colleagues conclude.

It may be too late for people with late-stage Alzheimer's disease to get much benefit from fish oil. But Cole suggests that it may be a great help if taken at the first signs of Alzheimer's.

Cole and colleagues report their findings in the Dec. 26 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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SOURCES: Ma, Q.-L. The Journal of Neuroscience, Dec. 26, 2007; vol 27: pp 14299-14307. News release, University of California, Los Angeles.

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