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Omega 3's may be the answer to decreasing risk of Alzheimer's Disease

Jenny Decker RN's picture

The American Heart Association has recommended for several years that eating fish at least twice a week is essential for getting Omega- 3 fatty acids. Other foods that contain the nutrient include algae, krill, and plants and nut oils. It has been said that eating the fatty acids also increases memory and cognition, but until now the reason for that has not really been known.

A study at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City has demonstrated that these nutrient may be associated with the protein that is commonly involved with Alzheimer’s disease. That protein is called beta-amyloid. In Alzheimer’s disease, the levels of this protein are very high. Omega 3’s tend to decrease the beta-amyloid although how it does this is not known yet.

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Do not get excited about all those supplements however. The study showed that taking the supplement does not increase the blood levels of the Omega- 3’s. The researchers suggest that the nutrient should be obtained in the diet as much as possible. If a person takes more than one gram of the Omega- 3 fatty acids than is average every week, the study shows that there may be as much as a 20-30 percent decrease in beta-amyloid levels. For example, if a person ate half of a fillet of salmon, they are getting one gram of Omega- 3. However, researchers advise to just incorporate as much of the nutrient into the diet as possible. It is not necessary to focus on eating specific quantities of the nutrient, such as when counting calories from specific foods when on a diet.

Studies are showing more and more information about Alzheimer’s Disease every day. However, there is still much that needs to be learned about the condition. With that in mind, it is important to understand that even this study does not know if the nutrient in the blood is related to the level of nutrient in the brain. Some studies in the past have shown this to be true, but other studies have shown just the opposite as well. The researchers mentioned that in their study, if there is a high level of Omega-3 in the blood, it will increase the level of Omega-3 in the brain. The relationship of the nutrient to the protein is not known at this time.

There are ideas floating around about how the Omega-3 affects the brain. By reducing oxidative stress and the resulting vascular damage, and possibly some impact on the protein in the brain, the nutrient found in fish and nut oils may help to protect memory and cognition. However, the researchers say there is much to be studied in this area to determine if this is the case or if the nutrient works in some other way.

Omega-3’s also have other health benefits. The reduction of heart disease is one. Remembering to incorporate the nutrient into one’s diet as much as possible is important to gaining the health benefits that are associated with Omega-3 fatty acids. Types of fish that may be considered are mackerel, tuna, salmon and halibut.