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The Link Between Omega-3 and Alzheimer ’s disease

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The Link Between Omega-3

and Alzheimer ’s disease

Edward Gruber, CN

As the American population ages -- according to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 people 65 and over will comprise 21 percent of the U.S. population -- science continues to confirm nutrition’s role in modifying the risk of age-related chronic disease and cognitive decline.

The brain boosting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in cold-water fish, are of particular interest to researchers. Fish oils contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are omega-3 oils. DHA is essential to brain health because it constitutes between 30 and 50 percent of the total fatty acid content of the human brain.

Studies linking omega-3 fish oils and the prevention of cognitive decline abound. Some examples:

* In European studies and the Framingham Heart Study-- a long-term, multigenerational study, designed to identify genetic and environmental factors influencing the development of cardiovascular and other diseases --scientists reported that people with the highest blood levels of DHA were about half as likely to develop dementia as those with lower levels.

* In a 10-year Tufts University study tracking the DHA levels of 1188 elderly subjects, Alzheimer's disease (AD) was 67 percent more likely to develop in those whose DHA levels were in the lower half of the subject range.

*A paper published in the online issue of Archives of Neurology connected a Mediterranean diet-type eating regimen with a reduced risk of AD. The study looked at 2,148 older adults (average age 77) who were at the start of the four-year study period all free of dementia.

Among those who over the course of the four years ate such a diet – a food combination that is low in saturated fat and high in nutrients like folate, vitamin E and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids – the risk of AD was more than a third lower than among those who ate the least of such foods and more high-fat dairy products, butter, red meat and organ meat. By the end of the four-year period, 253 of the study subjects had developed AD.

It’s interesting to note that a Mediterranean-type eating plan also has the benefit of lowering insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels have been shown to increase inflammatory markers and beta-amyloid proteins, which have been associated with an increased risk of AD.