Omega-3 fats from foods including fish, chicken, nuts and seeds are preferentially sequestered after consumption and used for critical functions to maintain optimal brain metabolism and function. These long-chain fats are used to form the highly permeable cell wall membrane of nerve cells, as electrical and chemical transmissions through this barrier are limited when sufficient omega-3 fats are unavailable from blood circulation.
Researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York have published the result of their work demonstrating the close relationship between Omega-3 fats, blood saturation levels of amyloid proteins and risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the prestigious journal, Neurology. The study confirms that lower blood levels of a protein related to Alzheimer's disease (amyloid-beta plaque) can protect against memory problems, mild cognitive decline and progression to Alzheimer’s disease in many cases.
Increased Omega-3 Fats from Diet Reduces Beta-Amyloid Levels in the Blood up to Thirty Percent
The lead study author, Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas noted “While it's not easy to measure the level of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain in this type of study, it is relatively easy to measure the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood, which to a certain degree, relates to the level in the brain.” The brain normally generates amyloid proteins as a metabolic byproduct that are broken down and cleared in the youthful, healthy brain. The study suggests that Omega-3 fats from dietary sources can aid this process, though the scientists did not specifically note this conclusion.
Researchers looked at 1,219 people that were over the age of 65 and free of dementia. The participants provided information regarding their diet for an average of 1.2 years before their blood was tested for beta-amyloid. The scientists specifically monitored ten nutrients including saturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.
Consume Several Servings of Walnuts, Fish and Seeds Daily to Lowers Dementia Risk
The study determined that higher levels of omega-3 fats consumed by eating fish, chicken, nuts and seeds directly correlated to lower blood beta-amyloid levels. Researchers found that consuming one gram of omega-3 per day (equal to approximately half a fillet of salmon per week) was associated with 20 to 30 percent lower blood beta-amyloid levels. Researchers found that most people do not eat enough omega-3 enriched foods to adequately raise blood levels of the essential fat.
Dr. Scarmeas concluded “The more omega-3s one eats, the less the beta amyloid levels are… we were able to relate something that we eat with a very specific mechanism in the body that is very strongly related to Alzheimer’s.” This study did not account for intake of the pre-formed omega-3 fats supplied through fish oil supplements, known to dramatically boost blood saturation of the long-chain fats. Nutrition experts suggest several servings of fish, chicken, nuts and seeds each week (or supplementing with 1,200 to 2,400 mg EPA/DHA daily) to significantly lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.