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Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease With Omega Three Fatty Acids

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, July 13, 2009 11:14 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Elderly, DHA, Supplements, Alcohol Consumption, PTSD

Alzheimer's research shows promise with DHA supplements and moderate alcohol consumption. 

Alzheimer's and Alcohol, DHA and PTSD - Three Studies



IMAGE SOURCE: © Wikimedia Commons/ progressive dementia patient/ author: Dr. Laughlin Dawes


The question had been posed – does taking DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid – fight the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease? People had been swallowing DHA (ducosahexenoic acid) supplements found in fish oil and eating salmon and tuna to get their daily dose of the fatty acid to reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s or treat it. 

Now an 18-month government study has mixed results.  

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association meeting in Vienna, Austria.   

One 18-month study of people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease did not show an improvement and “does not support use of DHA for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease” said study author Dr. Joseph Quinn, an associate professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University, reports ABC News.

However studying a subpopulation of the larger study showed a slower rate of decline in those people who did not have the e4 version of the APOE gene, which is known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.   Dr. Quinn stopped short of concluding that those without the e4 should be on DHA. 

Among the 402 people with an average age of 76, the study supported by the National Institute of Health, some took 2,000- milligrams daily of DHA supplements, while others took a placebo.   The slower rate of decline in the e4-negative people was not statistically significant.

“We don’t know the mechanism that would account for a benefit in e4-negative people and we don’t know if our exploratory analysis would be confirmed in future trials” he says, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. 

The second study involved a six-month trial with participants taking 900 milligrams a day of DHA. The 485 participants, with an average age of 70, had mild complaints about memory loss. Those taking supplements made fewer errors on a memory test.   That trial was funded by DHA maker, Martek Biosciences Corp. which markets the DHA that was used in both studies. 

Bill Thies, medical officer of the Alzheimer’s Association said there was some improvement in memory” but concludes, “it is too early” to make recommendations about the use of DHA supplements to prevent mental function.  

The results indicate that DHA supplements are appropriate for "people who have very mild memory complaints, which applies to a large percentage of the population at this age," said Karin Yurko-Mauro, associate director of clinical research at Martek Biosciences. "We're not talking about a disease stage here."

Alzheimer’s and Alcohol

And some surprising results from Wake Forest University School of Medicine about Alzheimer’s and alcohol. 

Researchers interviewed 3,069 people age 75 or older about their alcohol consumption. Most had no memory problems.   They were looking for a correlation among those who drank beer, wine, spirits, or no alcohol at all.  What they found was those who drank one or two alcoholic drinks per day had a 37 percent reduce risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who didn’t drink at all.

However, those with a mild impairment found their memory got worse when they drank more than two glasses a day. When compared to non drinkers their risk was twice.  The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. 

More than two drinks a day can damage brain and heart tissue, and alcohol consumption has been linked to cancer.

Alzheimer’s and PTSD

Also reported at the 2009 Alzheimer’s International Conference was research conducted at a California medical center for war veterans.   181,000 veterans ages 55 and older were monitored for six years beginning in 2001, reports USA Today.

50,000 veterans were followed who were diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. They were compared to 125,000 who did not have PTSD.

Those with PTSD had a 1.8 times more likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s than those without. 

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a massive loss of cells in the brain and occurs frequently in old age. An estimated 37 million worldwide live with dementia, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, according to the World Health Organization or WHO with numbers expected to double over the next decades.    #

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