Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be good for heart health, but did you know that in high doses they can also slow down cognitive decline and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s?
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has been extensively studied as a therapeutic intervention. And it's showing promise in treating neurological conditions like bipolar disorder and major depression.
In a search for safe and effective treatment options for cognitive decline, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) tested omega-3 supplementation to determine its effectiveness in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's.
There is significant research supporting the preventive potential of omega-3 fatty acids. However, there are no data on the specific dose required to achieve benefits in fighting cognitive decline.
Volunteers help science fight Alzheimer's
Study volunteers were required to undergo two lumbar punctures. In which a hollow needle pierces the lower back. Blood draws were also required. This to determine the amount of omega-3 supplement that is absorbed by the central nervous system. Compared to that which remains circulating in the bloodstream.
A procedure was carried out at the beginning to establish the reference levels, and another was carried out at the end of the study period. The researchers collected these samples from blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. This to assess whether omega-3s had reached the brain and, if so, in what amounts.
They measured the levels of two different omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The trial consisted of 33 participants with risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. Including family history of AD, sedentary lifestyle, and a diet low in fatty fish. At the time of the intervention, none of the participants had cognitive impairment.
Of the 33 participants in total, 15 carried the APOE4 genetic variant, which is linked to inflammation in the brain and increases the risk of developing AD by a factor of four or more.
The other 18 participants were not carriers of this variant. The participants were organized into two groups: control and treatment. The treatment group took DHA supplements of more than 2 grams daily for six months.
The control group took identical daily placebo capsules for the same period of time. Both groups took B-complex vitamins daily for optimal omega-3 metabolic processing.
Genetics can affect omega-3 absorption
At the end of the six-month intervention period and the analysis of the biofluid samples, participants in the treatment group who took omega-3 supplements had 200% more DHA in their blood compared to the control group.
DHA levels in cerebrospinal fluid were 28% higher in the treatment group than in the control group. It is indicating an absorption rate of omega-3 in the brain much lower than the detectable in the bloodstream.
Among individuals in the treatment group without the APOE4 gene mutation that increases the risk of Alzheimer's, three times more anti-inflammatory EPA was detected in cerebrospinal fluid than in those with the APOE4 variant.
This finding indicates that people with risk factors for AD may need higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids to reach therapeutic levels in the brain.
The research team concluded that even higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids may be required to slow the progression of Alzheimer's and signs of cognitive decline in carriers of the APOE4 gene.
The two-year study, to be conducted with 320 participants, has the short-term goal of establishing proof of concept that the drug is entering the brain and positively affecting biomarkers of the disease. Ultimately, researchers hope to identify and develop treatments to slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Have Over 60 Known Benefits
Fat consumption is a very common topic among health experts. However, the idea of healthy fats versus unhealthy fats is no longer considered controversial. And omega-3 fatty acids are possibly the best known of the "good" fats.
If you prefer to obtain healthy fats from food sources rather than supplements. Fish like mackerel, sardines, and salmon are among the best sources of omega-3 fats. In addition to the benefits they have for brain health, eating fish and foods high in vitamin D and omega-3 can help you prevent heart attacks and avoid cancer.
There are more than 60 known health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. A high-quality EPA supplement can even improve mood. Studies have shown that EPA is as effective as Prozac in treating major depressive disorder.
A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates (sugars) that causes the body to break down fat into molecules called ketones. Ketones circulate in the blood and become the main source of energy for many cells in the body. A ketogenic diet is used to treat some types of epilepsy and is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer.