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Diet Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acid DHA Protects Brain Against Alzheimer’s Disease, UCLA Study Shows

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Date: September 1, 2004

UCLA neuroscientists have shown for the first time that a diet high in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA helps protect the brain against the memory loss and cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease. The new research suggests that a DHA-rich diet may lower one's risk of Alzheimer's disease and help slow progression of the disorder in its later stages. The journal Neuron reported the findings on Sept. 2.

"This is the first proof that our diets affect how our brain cells communicate with each other under the duress of Alzheimer's disease," said Greg Cole, senior author and a professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "We saw that a diet rich in DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, dramatically reduces the impact of the Alzheimer's gene.

"Consuming more DHA is something the average person can easily control," added Cole, associate director of the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. "Anyone can buy DHA in its purified form, fish-oil capsules, high-fat fish or DHA-supplemented eggs."

"We discovered that the mice lived on a nutritious diet of soy and fish — two ingredients chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids," said Sally Frautschy, co-author and an associate professor of neurology at the school.

"Because earlier studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may prevent Alzheimer's disease, we realized that the mice's diet could be countering the very thing we were trying to accomplish — showing the progression of the Alzheimer's-related brain damage," she said.

"We found high amounts of synaptic damage in the brains of the Alzheimer's-diseased mice that ate the DHA-depleted diet," Frautschy said. "These changes closely resembled those we see in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease."

Although the mice on the DHA-supplemented diet also carried the Alzheimer's genes, they still performed much better in memory testing than the mice in the first group.

"After adjusting for all possible variables, DHA was the only factor remaining that protected the mice against the synaptic damage and memory loss that should have resulted from their Alzheimer's genes," Cole said. "We concluded that the DHA-enriched diet was holding their genetic disease at bay."

The human brain absorbs DHA rapidly, making a constant supply critical for proper cognitive function, eye development and mental tasks. DHA helps keep the brain membrane fluid, moves proteins and helps to convert signals from other parts of the body into action.

-UCLA-

 

 

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This information is educational in context and is not to be used to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Please consult your licensed health care practitioner before using this or any medical information.