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Fish Oil Linked To Structural Changes In The Brain: Human Data

Posted:  Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Study says people who are not genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease may be able to conserve brain volume. Taking fish oil supplements may prompt structural changes in the brain that conserve brain volume and improve cognition. People with higher levels of omega- 3 fatty acids found in fish oil have larger brain volumes in old age. Also shrinking of brain leads to Alzheimer’s.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of mental decline in older adults. The latest findings which are based on a study of lab mice – do not change that. But they enhance fish oil's reputation as a "brain food" that may help protect the brain from the ravages of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers worldwide are hot on the trail of an Alzheimer's cure. They're studying everything from diet to mental activity, while working on new Alzheimer's drugs.

Fish oil supplements may produce beneficial structural changes in the brain, according to a new study from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital. Findings published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia indicated that fish oil supplements may conserve brain volume and cognition across the spectrum of normal aging and neuro-degeneration.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition. Gradually, it damages areas of the brain involved in memory, intelligence, language, judgment, and behaviour. Alzheimer's becomes more common with age, striking one in 10 people over age 65 and nearly half of those over 85.

But Alzheimer's disease is not an inevitable part of aging. It's less common in some populations that eat a lot of fish, researchers have noticed.

The researchers conducted neuropsychological tests and brain MRIs every six months. They also compared cognitive functioning and brain atrophy for patients who reported taking fish oil supplements and those not taking fish oil supplements.

They found that taking a fish oil supplement was associated with better cognitive functioning during the duration of the study. That result was only seen for those participants with normal baseline cognitive function and for people who tested negative for AP0E4, the gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, the participants who were APOE4 negative and took fish oil supplements had less brain atrophy than those who did not take fish oil.

The researchers add, however, that it’s still possible that starting fish oil supplementation during or before middle age could protect against developing Alzheimer’s even for people with the genetic marker.

Other research has confirmed the association between low DHA and EPA levels and impaired cognitive function. Other studies have found that taking fish oil supplements improves mood, cooperation, appetite, sleep, and short-term memory in Alzheimer’s patients.

If you think of the gene for Alzheimer’s as a light switch, taking fish oil earlier in life could prevent the switch from being flicked on. You can ingest fish oil by taking capsules or eating fish. Species rich in the oils include mackerel, tuna and salmon. Either way, you brain will thank you.