Small Study Hints at Omega-3 Protection of Memory in Alzheimer’s

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A first-of-its-kind study on Alzheimer’s disease found an indication that omega-3 fatty acids taken early on protect against Alzheimer’s disease, despite not finding biomarkers in patients’ cerebrospinal fluid.

The researchers published their findings in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“We are careful not to draw any wider conclusions, but we can see a difference in the results of the memory tests. Patients who were taking omega-3 supplements at an early stage of the disease scored better,” cautioned Yvonne Freund-Levi, researcher in neuroscience at Örebro University.

The small study enrolled 33 patients, 18 of which were given omega-3 supplements morning and evening, and15 were in the control group. Spinal fluid samples were collected, and patients performed a memory test at the start of the study and after six months.

“We can see that the memory function of the patients in the group that had taken omega-3 is stable, whereas the patients in the control group have deteriorated. That’s what the memory tests show,” said Yvonne Freund-Levi.

“But we can’t see any differences between the groups when we look at the various biomarkers in the spinal fluid samples.”

However there are differences within the group given omega-3: an increase of two of the markers that are linked to damaged nerve cells. There is no clinical link to the memory tests, however.

“Even if this data isn’t enough for us to change our recommendations to patients at this time, it is an interesting material for researchers to build on.”

This study is based on a larger study with over 200 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, initiated by Yvonne Freund-Levi and her research team 15 years ago. In that previous study, the researchers found that omega-3 transfers from the supplements to the brain.

“We are cautious about giving recommendations, but we know that starting early is by far the best thing – it is difficult to influence the disease at a later stage. The best piece of advice we have to offer at the moment is to be physically active and to include omega-3 in your diet – in the form of oily fish or as supplements.”

In future, researchers will be able to measure biomarkers in blood samples rather than having to perform spinal tap procedures.

“We have already tested this approach at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Without a doubt, it is so much better for the patients.”

Source: Örebro University

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