Crossing Over Into Memory Land

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memory lossIt is suspected that the more of the omega-3 fats, especially DHA but also EPA, found in brain tissue, the lower the risk for dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. But, can these dietary fats make it through the blood-brain barrier? And once there, could they possibly lower Alzheimer’s risk? According to a study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the answer to both those questions is – YES! In this six-month study, patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease consumed daily either placebos or omega-3 supplements rich in DHA. Patients who received the DHA supplements showed higher levels of two major forms of omega-3s in their cerebrospinal fluid, DHA and EPA. The placebo group showed no change. The concentration of DHA in this fluid was linked directly to the degree of change in Alzheimer’s symptoms and in markers for inflammation. (A reduction in inflammation has been shown in previous studies to be important in treating dementia.) The researchers conclude that DHA from supplements crosses the blood-brain barrier. Further research is needed to help sort out how the omega-3s can be used to slow or halt memory loss in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

In Perspective: The results of this study are especially newsworthy since previous studies show that Alzheimer’s patients have low levels of the omega-3 fat DHA in their cerebrospinal fluid.

Freund Levi Y, Vedin I, Cederholm T, et al: Transfer of omega-3 fatty acids across the blood-brain barrier after dietary supplementation with a docosahexaenoic acid-rich omega-3 fatty acid preparation in patients with Alzheimers’s disease: The OmegAD study. Journal of Internal Medicine 2013;November 23rd. 

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