If a drug company announced that a new drug reduced the incidence of Alzheimer's disease by 60% in a large, impressive study, the news would fill newspaper headlines and be the talk of many a cable news and daytime talk show for weeks. But what if this remarkable discovery wasn't a new drug, but a natural substance from which the pharmaceutical companies don't stand to make any profit (and therefore have no incentive to promote) - would it get the same attention?
That would be a no. A growing number of studies are showing that fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids) can help treat mild Alzheimer's disease and may even prevent Alzheimer's from developing in the first place. One of the most impressive prospective studies on this topic followed 815 older people over 4 years. By following people before any illness had developed, researchers were able to identify factors associated with Alzheimer's disease development in some participants. One of the most compelling findings of this study found that participants who consumed fish at least once per week or more had 60% less risk of Alzheimer's disease compared with those who rarely or never ate fish. For those who ate the most fish, the reduction of developing Alzheimer's was even greater, at 70 percent. This positive result was also correlated with people who took omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is a component of fish oils and a major component of human brain tissue.
Since the mid 1990's a number of studies in the
and abroad have found similar findings. In a 7-year study of 1674 people over age 67 conducted in 2002, participants whose diet had the greatest consumption of fish also had the lowest incidence of dementia. A 2006 study found that taking fish oil supplements can slow cognitive decline in people with mild Alzheimer's disease. No matter the study, the same essential findings were consistent in each one. The more fish people ate (or omega-3 fatty acids they consumed), the less likely they were to develop dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. It is believed that fish is beneficial because omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the brain and assist the regeneration of nerve cells. The evidence is not complete, but it is promising, more promising than many of the drugs that are prescribed by doctors every day. U.S.
Experts believed that much of the degeneration of aging is due to chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effect of fish oils or other forms of omega-3 fatty acids has been proven in studies of people with inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. There are other reasons to get enough fish oils in your diet. Fish oils can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death by 40%-80%. Fish oils are also shown to improve glucose metabolism, improve vascular flexibility, reduce blood pressure, and may even help prevent some cancers. One important note of caution: Fish oils also have antithrombotic effects, that is, they cause a slight thinning of the blood. If you have a bleeding disorders or take Coumadin (warfarin) or other blood thinners (even low dose aspirin), check with your doctor before taking fish oils.