Omega-3 May Reduce the Risk of Neurodegenerative Diseases

diseaseIncreased intakes of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may counter oxidative stress in older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), says a new study from Malaysia.

Brain functioning is known to naturally decline as we age, and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a transitional state when small changes in memory and other mental abilities coexist with normal functioning. Such declines in functions are often a warning sign of dementia – a term used to describe various different brain disorders that a progressive loss of brain functioning in common. Oxidative stress has been reported to be a contributing factor to this process.

New data published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry indicates that increased intakes of EPA and DHA may decrease oxidative stress markers in elderly MCI patients. “These observations, although not widely explored, are promising for the importance of EPA and DHA metabolism in modulating lipid peroxidation among cognitively impaired elderly patients,” wrote the researchers. “Future investigations should provide a better understanding of the clinical significance of EPA and DHA levels, especially during the incorporative phase, and genetic susceptibility in elderly MCI patients.”

Data from 67 people with MCI was compared with data of 134 health elderly people. Omega-3 intakes were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood samples were taken to measures levels of lipid hydroperoxide, a marker of oxidative stress.

Results indicated that people with MCI had significantly higher LPO levels than the healthy control group. In addition, higher DHA and EPA intakes were associated with significantly lower LPO levels in the MCI group, a result described by the researchers as “an important finding”. “Omega-3 PUFA intake was found to be positively correlated with the cognitive function, particularly attention, short term memory and recall capabilities,” they wrote.

“Meanwhile, LPO concentrations were inversely associated with global cognitive function, attention, short-term memory and immediate and delayed learning.”

Commenting on the potential mechanisms, the researchers said these had not been well established, but one possibility was that DHA could accelerate the production of antioxidant enzymes, which subsequently activate the antioxidant defense system. “This is an early study investigating the impact of omega-3 PUFA consumption on lipid peroxidation status among the elderly MCI patients, and it bridges a gap in the current research literature.”

Source: Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
May 2013, Volume 24, Number 5, Pages 803-808, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2012.04.014 (for purchase)
“The role of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in reducing lipid peroxidation among elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment: a case-control study”
Authors: Lee LK, Shahar S, Rajab N, Yusoff NA, Jamal RA, Then SM.

Weekly Abstracts:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Pregnant Women May Reduce the Risk of Atopic Eczema and Egg Sensitivity in Offspring


“Effect of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy on infants’ allergies in first year of life: randomised controlled trial,” Palmer DJ, Sullivan T, et al, BMJ, 2012 Jan 30; 344; e184. [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute, 72

King William Road, North Adelaide, South Australia, 5006, Australia)

In a randomized, controlled trial involving 706 infants at high hereditary risk of developing allergic disease and their mothers, supplementation with fish oil (providing 900 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily) from 21 weeks’ gestation until birth was found to be associated with a reduced prevalence of atopic eczema and egg sensitivity in offspring at 1 year of age. The overall percentage of infants with immunoglobulin E associated allergic disease was not significantly different between the groups (9% in the omega-3 group versus 13% in the control group), however, the percentage of infants with atopic eczema was significantly lower in the omega-3 group (7%) compared with the control group (12%). In addition, egg sensitivity was less in the omega-3 group (9%) versus the control group (15%). The authors state, “Longer term follow-up is needed to determine if supplementation has an effect on respiratory allergic diseases and aeroallergen sensitisation in childhood.

Effects of Statin Drugs on the Effectiveness of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Patients with Major Cardiovascular Events with a History of Myocardial Infarction

MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION – Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Statins

“Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on major cardiovascular events in statin users and non-users with a history of myocardial infarction,” Eussen SR, Geleijnse JM, et al, Eur Heart J, 2012 Feb 1; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80082, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands).

In a study involving 3,740 consistent statin drug users and 413 consistent non-statin users, low-dose supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with a history of MI who are not being treated with statins. Subjects were randomized to receive supplementation with 400 mg/d EPA plus DHA, 2 g alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), or both, or placebo. 13% of statin-users and 15% of non-statin users developed a major cardiovascular event. Among non-statin users, 9% of those who received EPA-DHA plus ALA were found to experience a major cardiovascular event, as compared to 18% in the placebo group (HR=0.46); no such corresponding benefit was found among statin users. The authors conclude, “This study suggests that statin treatment modifies the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the incidence of major cardiovascular events.”

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