A study published in the latest online issue of the journal Neurology indicates that eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may yield a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.
A diet including chicken, nuts, fish, salad dressing, and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower the blood level of a particular protein believed to be related to Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.
The new research looked at the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood as a proxy for beta-amyloid deposits in the brain.
“While it’s not easy to measure the level of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain in this type of study, it is relatively easy to measure the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood, which, to a certain degree, relates to the level in the brain,” said study author Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., M.S., with Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Investigators reviewed the diet for 1,219 people older than age 65 and free of dementia. On average, researchers looked back at dietary records for 1.2 years.
Participant’s blood was tested for the beta-amyloid with specific attention directed at 10 nutrients, including saturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.
Researchers discovered the more omega-3 fatty acids a person consumed, the lower their blood beta-amyloid levels.
Ingesting one gram of omega-3 per day (equal to approximately half a fillet of salmon per week), is associated with 20 to 30 percent lower blood beta-amyloid levels.
Other nutrients were not associated with plasma beta-amyloid levels. The results stayed the same after adjusting for age, education, gender, ethnicity, amount of calories consumed and whether a participant had the APOE gene, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the findings confirm the benefit of an omega-3 diet for improving blood beta-amyloid levels, the trust test is whether the diet reduces beta-amyloid deposits in the brain.
“Determining through further research whether omega-3 fatty acids or other nutrients relate to spinal fluid or brain beta-amyloid levels or levels of other Alzheimer’s disease related proteins can strengthen our confidence on beneficial effects of parts of our diet in preventing dementia,” said Scarmeas.
The study is published online in the journal Neurology.
Source: American Academy of Neurology