Omega-3 protects against brain shrinkageJuly 22, 2014 July 22, 2014
Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital have found regular use of fish oil supplements (FOS) was associated with a significant reduction in cognitive decline and brain atrophy in older adults. The study examined the relationship between fish oil supplements use during the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and indicators of cognitive decline. The findings are published online in advance of print in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
“At least one person is diagnosed every minute with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and despite best efforts, we have not yet found a cure for this pervasive and debilitating disease,” said principal investigator Lori Daiello, PharmD, of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital. “The field is currently engaged in numerous studies to find better treatments for people suffering with AD; however, researching ways to prevent AD or slow cognitive decline in normal aging is of utmost importance.”
The study found that fish oil supplement use during the study was associated with significantly lower rates of cognitive decline as measured by the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog), and the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), but this benefit was observed only for the group of participants without dementia at the time of enrollment.1
In other recent research, doctors suggested that people with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids may also have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health. Research was published in the January 22, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease as well as normal aging. For the study, the levels of omega-3 fatty acids EPA+DHA in red blood cells were tested in 1,111 women who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Eight years later, when the women were an average age of 78, MRI scans were taken to measure their brain volume. Those with higher levels of omega-3s had larger total brain volumes eight years later. Those with twice as high levels of fatty acids (7.5 vs. 3.4 percent) had a 0.7 percent larger brain volume.
“These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years,” said study author James V. Pottala, PhD, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., in Richmond, Va. Those with higher levels of omega-3s also had a 2.7 percent larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory. In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus begins to atrophy even before symptoms appear.
fish oils could minimize the effects that junk food can have on the brain
Data from more than 180 research papers suggests fish oils could minimize the effects that junk food can have on the brain, a review by researchers at the University of Liverpool has shown.
The team at the University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease reviewed research from around the world to see whether there was sufficient data available to suggest that omega-3s had a role to play in aiding weight loss.
omega-3s stimulate the area of the brain that control feeding, learning and memory
Research over the past 10 years has indicated that high-fat diets could disrupt neurogenesis, a process that generates new nerve cells, but diets rich in omega-3s could prevent these negative effects by stimulating the area of the brain that control feeding, learning and memory.
Data from 185 research papers revealed, however, that fish oils do not have a direct impact on this process in these areas of the brain, but are likely to play a significant role in stalling refined sugars and saturated fats’ ability to inhibit the brain’s control on the body’s intake of food.
Dr Lucy Pickavance, from the University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, explains: “Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume. Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing.
“We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes”
“These changes can be seen in the brain’s structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases. Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects. We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes.”
Research papers showed that on high-fat diets hormones that are secreted from body tissues into the circulation after eating, and which normally protect neurons and stimulate their growth, are prevented from passing into the brain by increased circulation of inflammatory molecules and a type of fat called triglycerides.
Molecules that stimulate nerve growth are also reduced, but it appears, in studies with animal models, that omega-3s restore normal function by interfering with the production of these inflammatory molecules, suppressing triglycerides, and returning these nerve growth factors to normal.
Dr Pickavance added: “Fish oils don’t appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets. They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health.”2
Fish oil supplements reduce incidence of cognitive decline, may improve memory function
2. Marianne A. Yon, Suzanna L. Mauger, Lucy C. Pickavance. Relationships between dietary macronutrients and adult neurogenesis in the regulation of energy metabolism. British Journal of Nutrition, 2013; 109 (09): 1573 DOI: 10.1017/S000711451200579X