Omega-3 fatty acids have been attracting a lot of nutrition headlines lately as studies continue to reinforce their known benefits and even uncover some new ones.
While Omega 3 has long been linked with brain health, new research shows how dietary essential fatty acids could help treat Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions during their early stages.
The key Omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) creates signaling molecules known as docosanoids when cellular equilibrium is disrupted by disease or injury. Scientists from Louisiana State University School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Center of Excellence have discovered a docosanoid known as Neuroprotection D1 (NPD1), and they say that it protects neurons by determining the way certain genes in the brain and retina respond.
This has important ramifications for Alzheimer’s disease because preclinical events in the illness such as dendritic spine damage, cell-to-cell communication issues, and neuroinflammation all coincide with diminishing DHA in the brain. NPD1’s neuroprotective bioactivity has the ability to modulate inflammation and promote cell survival, which can help restore the equilibrium within the cell.
The scientists are hopeful that their work will help lead to future treatments. They say the key is intervening in the diseases’ early stages.
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Nicolas Bazan, said: “It is our hope that this knowledge will contribute to managing early stages of such devastating diseases as Alzheimer’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and others.”
Previous studies show Omega 3 brain benefits
Past studies have shown that DHA and another omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, help maintain optimal brain health. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that omega-3 rich foods like salmon, mackerel, and sardines help prevent the illness by promoting the flow of blood in the parts of the brain responsible for the regulation of learning and memory.
A 2013 study in the same journal found that combining omega-3 fatty acids with vitamin D could enhance the ability of the immune system to eliminate deposits of amyloid plaque in the brain, which are connected to the development of the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting five million Americans and killing more people in our country each year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Trouble recalling newly-acquired information is one common early symptom, and the symptoms grow in severity as patients experience serious memory loss, baseless distrust of loved ones, behavioral changes, and trouble speaking, walking and swallowing.
Top sources of Omega 3
According a fact sheet from the Association of U.K. Dietitians, the best sources of Omega 3 are oily fish. In particular, they recommend mackerel, trout, salmon, herring, crab, swordfish, sardines and tuna. White fish is not as good of a source as oily fish, but fish like haddock, cod, and flounder do have some omega 3s.
People who don’t eat fish can find omega 3 in foods like seeds, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. They advise against relying on omega 3-enriched foods like omega 3 milk. In addition, they emphasize that getting omega 3 from your diet is far better than turning to supplements, unless you are unable to get enough omega 3 from diet alone for some reason.
Findings like this one illustrate the tremendous power that diet has when it comes to your health. Poor eating habits can cause a number of undesirable health problems, but eating correctly can help you live a long and healthy life. That’s why it is so important to stay on top of the latest research and make smart eating choices every day.