You may have heard the old adage that fish is brain food. Now researchers think an important nutrient in fish – omega-3 fatty acid – may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, a progressive brain disorder that destroys thinking skills and memory. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease typically begin during a person’s mid-60s, and can include:
- forgetting recently learned information,
- trouble with planning or solving problems,
- difficulty finishing familiar tasks,
- challenges with understanding visual images, and
- struggling to follow conversations.
Should You Be Worried?
While estimates vary, experts believe more than 5 million people in the United States may have Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty to 80 percent of all cases of dementia are from Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, making it the most common form of dementia.
Is There A Cure?
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of amyloid-beta protein between nerve cells of the brain. In time, the accumulated amyloid-beta proteins turn into plaque that interferes with the function of those nerve cells.
Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, which means it worsens over time. Currently, there is no treatment for this type of dementia. Exciting new research may change that – many studies suggest omega-3s may slow the progression of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Flaxseeds contains Omega 3 which is one of the natural cures for alzheimer’s disease
What Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Do For Our Brain?
Omega-3 fatty acid is a type of fat found cell membranes, which is the protective shell that surrounds your cells. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- α-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
These fatty acids are indispensable in promoting neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to continue developing throughout your life. DHA is the chief omega-3 in your brain, found mainly in the fatty membranes surrounding nerve cells. There are especially high numbers of DHA at the microscopic junctions where nerve cells connect to each other. DHA and other omega-3s help your body build new brain cells and maintain the structural integrity of brain cell membranes.
Omega-3 is important to your brain throughout your life. It helped your brain develop when you were a fetus and continues to help you with learning and memory in adulthood. Brain cell membranes containing high levels of omega-3 are better at communicating with other cells.
Can Omega-3 Help Combat Alzheimer’s Inflammation?
Your body breaks down omega-3 into other molecules that play important roles in your brain. Some of these molecules quiet your body’s immune response to prevent inflammation, while others protect cells from oxidative stress. Research shows that immune-inflammatory responses and oxidative stress can contribute towards the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s The Research On Low Omega-3 And Dementia?
Low levels of omega-3 are associated with lower brain volume poorer mental acuity, according to a 2012 study, even in people without dementia. In that study, scientists performed MRI brain scans on 1,575 people without dementia. The researchers also administered tests to measure mental function, body mass and the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the participants’ red blood cells. Study participants had an average age of 67.
The scientists found the subjects with the lowest DHA levels had lower brain volumes compared with those with higher DHA levels. Furthermore, participants with lower overall omega-3 levels scored lower on tests for visual memory, which means they could not remember what they had seen. Those with lower omega-3 levels also scored lower on executive function tests that measured how well the participants could solve problems, multitask, and perform abstract thinking to understand concepts and recognize patterns.
Do We Know Exactly How Omega-3 Helps Dementia?
Scientists are still working to determine exactly how omega-3s influence the risk for dementia. Researchers are exploring many theories on the effects of omega-3 on dementia. Some scientists believe omega-3 improves the heart and blood vessels in a way that supports the circulation of oxygen-rich blood to your brain while others are investigating the anti-inflammatory effects of this nutrient. Other researchers believe omega-3 reduces the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by supporting and protecting nerve cell membranes. Whatever the underlying mechanism may be, what is clear is that Omega-3 fatty acids help the brain, big time.
Should I Just Eat Fish Instead?
Some varieties of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. Oily cold-water fish, such as tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel and herring contain the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. It is very healthy for all people, including those suffering from Alzheimer’s to eat such fish, especially if we can find mercury-free sources.
You can also get your omega-3 fatty acids from supplements. If you can’t be sure of the quality of your fish or you lead a busy life or simply want higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in a compact, soft gel form, dietary supplements may indeed work better for you. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, the great news is that a very recent study showed that omega-3 supplements reduced amyloid-beta protein buildup and brain inflammation.
How Much Omega-3 Should I Take?
In research studies, 1,700 mg DHA daily combined with 600 mg EPA has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain to slow the onset of dementia. This dosage can also improve appetite and produce beneficial weight gain in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega-3: What Precautions I Should Take?
If you are on prescription medications to “thin your blood” or lower platelet aggregation, such as asprin, you should be aware that Omega-3 has the same effect in your body. This may lead to an increased bleeding risk if you are injured. Also, Omega-3 supplementation should be discontinued before surgery for the same reasons that the doctor asks you to stop asprin – to prevent excessive bleeding.
The other common inconvenience that some people face are “fishy burps”. There are several “no-burp” brands available these days to counter this problem. Finally, ensure that you find a mercury-free source of Omega-3 to enjoy its full benefits with no side effects.