Alzheimer’s disease can now potentially be cured through the regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, according to a recent study. Finding a cure for this debilitating disease that affects the memory, especially for the aged, has baffled medical doctors and scientists for several years already. This new finding by a team of researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden led by Dr. Yvonne Freund-Levi may change all that.
The study, presented in the Journal of Internal Medicine, indicates that omega-3 fatty acids in dietary supplements can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and thus allow the acids to reach the brain. The Swedish researchers said that this finding can have significant implications in the use of omega-3 fatty acids as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s.
The omega-3 fatty acids belongs to the polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are important in maintaining healthy functions. These function include controlling normal blood clotting as well as allowing cell membranes in the brain to grow. The acids are also said to be effective in controlling cancer, heart diseases, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are not naturally manufactured by the body, but people can obtain these important acids through foods and dietary supplements.
Previous studies in Alzheimer’s disease research have shown that people suffering from this disease have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids located in the cerebrospinal fluid. The said fluid is the liquid that surrounds the central nervous system.
The six-month experiment of Freund-Levi is part of the larger OmegaAD project. Researchers examined if omega-3 dietary supplements can change the fatty acid profile found in the central nervous system (CNS), especially for patients exhibiting mild Alzheimer’s disease. There were 33 participants recruited for the study and 18 participants were given a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acid supplements while the other 15 received a placebo for the same time period.
The results indicate that the group given omega-3 fatty acids showed increased levels for both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaemoic acid, both forms of omega-3 acids. These acids were found in the subjects’ cerebrospinal fluid and blood. On the other hand, those subjects given the placebo had no such changes observed.
According to Prof. Jan Palmblad, who is part of the group who initiated this study, animals which received regular DHA dietary supplements have increased their CNS DHA concentrations. He added that in humans the same principle applies where omega-3 fatty acids can cross the blood-brain barrier to eventually reach the brain. By design, the natural barrier protects the brain from harmful chemicals that originate from the other parts of the body. He admitted that more work and research should be done to fully utilize these fatty acids in the effective treatment and ending of memory loss due to Alzheimer’s.
The omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from vegetable oils (soybean, flaxseed and canola), walnuts, green vegetables (kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts), and fatty fish. Obtaining omega-3 acids as a food rather than as a supplement is preferred. Aside from the acids, consumers can also ingest other nutrients like protein, minerals and vitamins.
With the latest scientific results, Alzheimer’s disease can now potentially be cured through the regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Although this process may take several more years to fully certify that this is indeed a cure, the study’s findings provide hope to many people suffering from this debilitating disease.
By Roberto I. Belda