Alzheimers Disease Treatment Omega 3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are very concentrated in the brain, and there is evidence to suggest that they may play a role in protecting the brain and supporting proper cognitive function. Scientists are hoping to uncover a solid therapeutic connection between Alzheimer’s and omega-3s.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids. Your body can’t produce these polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); you have to obtain them from food sources. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) are found primarily in the following cold-water fish (or fish oil supplements):

  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Lake trout
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna.

Dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another omega-3 fatty acid, include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Some nuts (such as walnuts and almonds)
  • Some vegetable oils (including soybean oil and pumpkin seed oil).

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in most vegetable oils, poultry and eggs. Doctors recommend eating a diet that contains a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. According to researchers at the University of Maryland, however, the typical North American diet contains up to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.

Alzheimer’s and Omega-3s: What’s the Connection?

Omega-3 fatty acids appear to play an important role in cognitive function. Omega-3s are very concentrated in the brain, particularly DHA, which is located in the membranes surrounding nerve cells. Studies on Alzheimer’s and omega-3s suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may slow cognitive decline in some patients with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to accomplish this by:

  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Protecting the brain’s nerve cell membranes (due to their anti-inflammatory properties)
  • Stimulating stronger connections between neurons in the brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids do not appear to slow the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms in cases of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Prevention of Alzheimer’s and Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are most effective as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Certain lifestyle choices can help you lower your risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. These include:

  • A healthy, well-balanced diet low in saturated fats
  • Intellectually stimulating activities
  • Regular exercise
  • Social activities.

A Cautionary Word About Omega-3 Oil Supplements

Despite their many health benefits, you should not take omega-3 oil supplements without first consulting your doctor. Omega-3 oil supplements can:

  • Increase fasting blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes
  • Increase the effects of blood-thinning medications.

Conversely, omega-3 fatty acids may also improve the effectiveness of some medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs).

Resources

Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.) Alternative treatments. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_alternative_treatments.asp#omega.

Ehrlich, S. D. (n.d.) Omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm.

Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (2010). Certain foods may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from http://www.alzinfo.org/newsarticle/templates/newstemplate.asp?articleid=399