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Can Omega-3 Foods Help Prevent Alzheimer’s?


A new report has found that people with higher omega-3 levels have increased blood flow to the brain in regions linked to learning and memory. Because these areas are destroyed by Alzheimer’s, eating foods that contain omega-3s may help prevent the onset or slow the progression of the condition.

As diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease are projected to triple in the future, and no cure exists for the malady, the interest in dietary strategies for preserving cognition has greatly increased.

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Animal studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in oily fish like salmon, can decrease inflammation in the brain, which is a major risk factor in the development of dementia. This research also indicates that the nutrients can reduce the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s. The recent discovery involving the effect of omega-3 levels in humans builds on the earlier findings.

“This study is a major advance in demonstrating the value of nutritional intervention for brain health by using the latest brain imaging,” commented George Perry, PhD, Dean and Professor of Biology, The University of Texas at San Antonio, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Higher Omega-3 Intake Linked to Increased Blood Flow in Critical Brain Regions

The participants in the new study were 166 patients from a psychiatric clinic that carried data on their omega-3 index, which is a measurement of two omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Researchers categorized the individuals into two groups: those with an omega-3 index greater than the 50th percentile and those with an omega-3 index lower than the 50th percentile. The team used a specialized imaging technique known as SPECT to measure blood flow to 128 regions of the brain, and they conducted psychological evaluations using standard tests.

Analysis of the results showed a significant correlation between a higher omega-3 index and increased blood flow to brain regions linked to learning, memory, dementia and depression. In addition, participants with higher omega-3 levels had better mental health.

Fish Play an Important Role in the Brain

“Although we have considerable evidence that omega-3 levels are associated with better cardiovascular health, the role of the ‘fish oil’ fatty acids in mental health and brain physiology is just beginning to be explored. This study opens the door to the possibility that relatively simple dietary changes could favorably impact cognitive function,” said coauthor William S. Harris, PhD, University of South Dakota School of Medicine. Vermillion, SD.

While many people have long thought fish to be a brain food, the medical community gave little credence to this belief for decades. However, since the turn of the century, compelling research has emerged showing this claim has great merit. Now, it is accepted that an array of brain conditions can be prevented or alleviated with good intake of omega-3 fats. When you consider that 60 percent of the brain is composed of omega-3 fatty acids, it makes sense that consuming more foods containing these nutrients would boost brain function.

The report was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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