Monday, June 30, 2008

Omega 3 May Reduce Odds of Alzheimer’s Disease

In mice, rats, and cultured human cells, an omega-3 fatty acid found in algae called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, was found to decrease an important risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease. DHA increases the production of a protein vital to clearing the brain of the enzymes that make the beta amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's patients are known to have reduced levels of this protein that normally would clear the plaque-making enzymes. This data suggest that long-term use of DHA supplements might help people reduce the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The National Institutes of Health is now funding a multi-million dollar clinical study on the effects of vegetarian DHA from microalgae in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease. This DHA is a vegetarian form of omega-3, which supports brain, eye and cardiovascular health throughout life. I have mentioned the value for omega 3 in an earlier blog. Most people don’t get enough omega 3 in their diet. But it is not just the amount of DHA that is important, but also its ratio to another fatty acid, omega 6. A typical Western diet produces a ratio ranging from 1:10 to 1:30, where ideally it should be 1:5 to 1:3.

Fish oil is the usual source of DHA, but the algae source is vegetarian and may have fewer ocean contaminants. It is made by the Martek Biosciences Corporation (


Ma, Qie-Lan, et al. 2007. Omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid increases SorLA/LR11, a sorting protein with reduced expression in sporadic Alzheimer's Disease (AD): Relevance to AD prevention. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(52):14299-14307.