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Worried About Alzheimer's: Try Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Harold Mandel's picture
A delicous, nutritious salmon meal

Omega-3 fatty acids may have the power to impact better outcomes in Alzheimer's disease patients. There are growing concerns about Alzheimer's as the population ages. There have been all kinds of dietary and lifestyle recommendations to help people prevent and slow down the progress of Alzheimer's. Scientific evidence that omega-3 fatty acids, with their anti-inflammatory properties, cross the blood-brain barrier, offers compelling support for their use in dealing with this dreaded condition.

Researchers have found essential fatty acids cross the human blood–brain barrier, reports the Journal of Internal Medicine. They have investigated whether or not oral supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids would change the fatty acid profile of the cerebrospinal fluid. Omega-3 fatty acids really may be the answer to decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reports EmaxHealth reporter Jenny Decker, RN.

It was observed at 6 months, the omega-3 fatty acid supplement group showed significant increases in cerebrospinal fluid and plasma eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and total omega-3 fatty acid levels. The greater docosahexaenoic acid increased in cerebrospinal fluid, the greater the change in cerebrospinal fluid Alzheimer's disease inflammatory biomarkers.
The researchers concluded oral supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was associated with changes in the omega-3 fatty acid profile in cerebrospinal fluid, therefore suggesting a transfer of these fatty acids across the blood-brain barrier in adults. EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell has included omega-3 fatty acids in a list of potential natural treatments for Alzheimer's Disease.

Many people throw around the term omega-3 fatty acids without a good feel for what they really are. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids which are essential nutrients for your health, writes the Harvard School of Public Health. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for many everyday body functions, which includes controlling normal blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Because our bodies can't make omega-3 fatty acids, we have to get them through our food or supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids may demonstrate health benefits in dealing with many conditions, including:

1: Heart disease

2: Stroke

3: Cancer

4: Inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis

There are many good food sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including:

1: Vegetable oils, such as soybean, canola, and flaxseed

2: Walnuts

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3: Many green vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens

4: Fatty fish

In order to maintain good health you should try to get at least one rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet daily. You could do this with a serving of fatty fish, such as salmon, a tablespoon of canola or soybean oil in salad dressing or with cooking, or by mixing a handful of walnuts or ground flaxseed with your morning oatmeal.

Questions often arise regarding the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from food versus supplements. Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are generally preferable because they also have other good nutrients, including protein, vitamins and minerals. However, people who do not eat fish or other foods which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids should consider taking a 500mg per day supplement of omega-3 fatty acids. And research has shown that people who have already had a heart attack may benefit from increased doses of omega-3 fatty acid supplements of about 1000mg daily.

New research has confirmed that omega-3 fatty acids in dietary supplements can cross the blood brain barrier in people suffering from Alzheimer's disease,according to Karolinska Institutet. The omega-3 fatty acids in dietary supplements which cross the blood brain barrier affect known markers for Alzheimer's disease itself and for inflammation.

These findings offer powerful support for the evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may actually benefit certain forms of this extremely debilitating disease. The study's lead author, Dr Yvonne Freund-Levi, has said, "Earlier population studies indicate that omega-3 can protect against Alzheimer's disease, which makes it interesting to study the effects of dietary supplements containing this group of fatty acids in patients who have already developed the disease." This is very significant in view of previous defeatist attitudes about the effectiveness of any interventions for Alzheimer's disease.

During gestation omega-3 fatty acids and other essential polyunsaturated fatty acids build up in the central nervous system. There have been assumptions that these important acids are continually replaced throughout life. However, there is not much known about how this occurs and whether or not variations in diet can affect the transport of important fatty acids across the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is vital for protection of the brain from harmful chemicals which exist naturally in the blood. The blood-brain barrier also blocks the delivery of drug substances to the brain.

Previous research has shown in patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease there are lower than normal brain concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid. In this study the researchers investigated whether omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplements change the fatty acid profile of the central nervous system in patients suffering from mild Alzheimer's disease. The results demonstrated higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the cerebrospinal fluid of people who took these supplements.

Furthermore, it was found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids correlated directly with the degree of change observed in Alzheimer's disease and inflammatory markers present in the cerebrospinal fluid. Professor Jan Palmblad, who initiated this study, says the findings suggest omega-3 fatty acids in dietary supplements cross the blood-brain barrier. However, more research is needed to determine exactly how these fatty acids may be used for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease to stop the tragic process of memory loss.

Alzheimer's disease really is a devastating condition which slowly robs elderly people of their minds. It has been my observation that increased public awareness of how serious this condition is has lead to greater interest than ever before in how the brain can be kept healthy as we age. It is my advice that you should try to lead an active lifestyle with daily aerobic exercise. I suggest taking a brisk walk, a bike ride, or a swim for a minimum of 30 minutes daily, if this is possible. Outdoors activities are always preferable to always staying inside.

It is also vital to eat nutritious foods. You should get plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, chicken and fish in your diet. If it appears omega-3 fatty acid supplements are also needed, you should discuss taking these with your health care provider to make certain you stay within healthy limits. Mega doses of any supplements can be dangerous. And stay away from sugary soft drinks and other sugary foods.

I also suggest staying away from too much alcohol. If you drink you should limit your intake to 1-2 light drinks a day. And of course also stay away from smoking. You should also be careful about what drugs you are taking. The psychiatric drugs, such as neuroleptics and lithium, in particular can cause a great deal of harm to your brain. If psychiatrists ever mislead you into taking these drugs or force you to take them, try to find a good lawyer who understands these issues to fight the psychiatrists with you.

Also, keep your mind active. You can exercise your mind with reading, browsing the Internet, blogging, social networking, writing, puzzles, games and your work in school and at your job. Challenge your mind by always asking questions and searching for better ways to do things. Remember, when dealing with the plasticity of the human brain, structure not only determines function, function also determines structure, and so keep your mind active.



The problem is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids into the brain. The AA/EPA ratio in the blood is a good marker as to how well you are achieving that goal. When the AA/EPA ratio is between 1.5 and 3, then you are getting adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain. The average AA/EPA ratio in Americans is 19.