Omega-3 fatty acids offer a potential new Alzheimer's treatment
Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in conjunction with researchers from the United States are working on a way that might help treat Alzheimer's disease with omega-3 fatty acids. According to the researchers such an approach is "entirely new" and offers new treatments for the most common form of dementia.
Omega-3 fatty acid cleanses the brain
The researchers discovered in cell cultures that the final stages of inflammation is disrupted in Alzheimer's disease. But omega-3 fatty acids can reverse that process.
The finding, published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, showed impaired clearance of harmful inflammatory molecules are lower in patient's with Alzheimer's disease compared to healthy people. The researchers also showed memory loss is associated with the inflammatory substances.
The scientists analyzed cerebrospinal fluid from 15 patients with Alzheimer's disease, 20 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 21 control subjects. They also analysed brain tissue from 10 Alzheimer's patients and 10 control subjects.
Alzheimer's disease is linked to inflammation in the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to quell inflammation, which is why eating anti-inflammatory foods or supplementing the diet with fish oil supplements has been suggested for preventing a variety of diseases.
Ongoing inflammation ultimately leads to brain cell death and further memory impairment. The researchers explain the inflammatory process should ultimately lead to tissue repair. But with Alzheimer's disease the normal process is interrupted. Rather than tissue repair, debris from dead cells and other microorganisms fails to clear because of dysregulation of a process called phagocytosis.
"Our hypothesis is that stimulation of resolution of inflammation in Alzheimer's disease may result in reduced neuronal death in the brain, and in turn have a beneficial effect in disease progression and cognition. This is an entirely new approach and provides the opportunity to develop new treatment principles for Alzheimer's disease," says Professor Marianne Schultzberg, who led the study at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society in a press release.
The researchers have found omega-3 fatty acid derivatives stimulate the uptake of amyloid-beta proteins that kill brain cells and for Alzheimer's disease plaques. They are continuing their studies in animal models to see if omega-3 fatty acids can prevent memory loss and further loss of brain cells.
Another recent finding showed omega-3 fatty acids can cross the blood brain barrier to potentially prevent Alzheimer's disease.
The suggestion that omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent and even slow down Alzheimer's disease is not entirely new. Dr. Barry Sears has been a proponent of "anti-inflammatory" nutrition for years. Inflammation can have a negative effect on every organ of the body; not just the brain.
Wang X, Zhu M, Hjorth E, Cortés Toro V, Eyjolfsdottir H, Graff C, Nennesmo I, Palmblad J, Eriksdotter M, Sambamurti K, Fitzgerald JM, Serhan CN, Granholm A-C & Schultzberg M
Resolution of inflammation is altered in Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's & Dementia, online 14 February 2014