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Omega-3 fatty acids offer a potential new Alzheimer's treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers have discovered how omega-3 fatty acids clear the brain of inflammation

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.

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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

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My 4 year old identical dathguers suffer from a Childhood Alzheimer's called Niemann Pick Type C. Like AD, it is progressive and fatal I just took them in for brain scans which show they have a glucose metabolism problem in the frontal lobe of their brains. I am very interested in this insulin resistance theory or at least it being a contributing factor to memory/brain disorders.
Coconut Oil is your treatment. The theory has been practiced and proven b/c it is now believed a type of alzheimers is known as Type 3 Diabetes of the brain or Insulin-Resistant Brain cells. Coconut oil once broken down in the liver, the oil becomes ketones which brain cells readily accept as an alternative source of energy rather than glucose/insulin. Look up Dr Mary Newport. She saved her husbands life with coconut oil after the got diagnosed with alzheimers
So is it better to get Omega-3 through food or vitamin form ?
Either or, or both Adam. If you take a supplement, just make sure it's pure. Eating fish is good too, but not to overdo that either -some say - because of contaminants. Supplements are easy and a sure way to make certain you're getting what you need.
Very interesting article, i have a family member with alzheimer disease, i guess that by changing her diets and tons of omega 3 i can stop and even slow or cure a little bit her disease??. What other recomendation would you give me in order to help her :D
Hi Ana, This study was very interesting, but explore all you can about Alzheimer's disease. I recommend the Alzheimer's Association in your area where you can network with others. You should also speak with your family member's health care provider. High dose Omega-3 fatty acids may not be right for everyone, depending on other health conditions. You would never want to take a chance.