New research shows how a fat found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring might help fight Alzheimer’s disease. The fat is called DHA. That’s short for docosahexaenoic acid. Technically, it’s an omega-3 fatty acid.
Fat to the Rescue
Scientists don’t know exactly what triggers Alzheimer’s disease to develop. However, they’ve noticed clumps of amyloidal protein and bundles of tangles (twisted fibers) in brains of people who suffer with the condition.
It’s unclear whether plaques or tangles cause Alzheimer’s disease or whether these are a byproduct of some other process that causes the condition.
DHA may help put the brakes on beta-amyloid proteins and rev up NPD1, write Bazan and colleagues. NPD1 acts like a bodyguard for brain cells, blocking the disease’s attempts to make brain cells die, the study shows.
Fish as Brain Food
Bazan’s study was done in a lab. They didn’t serve anyone fish for supper every night or dole out fish oil capsules. The researchers also don’t recommend any particular dose of DHA for Alzheimer’s disease. But they note that DHA is essential for the brain.
Past studies have shown that people who eat a lot of fish tend to be less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who hardly ever eat fish. For instance, a study published in 2003 showed that elderly Chicagoans who reported eating fish once a week for four years developed Alzheimer’s less often than those who rarely or never ate fish.never ate fish.
That doesn’t prove that fish prevents Alzheimer’s, but the pattern is getting lots of attention. DHA has also been found to be important for babies’ brain development. Fish oil capsules are another option.
In December 2004, consumerlab.com reported that its tests found no mercury or other toxins called PCBs in 41 fish oil supplements. Discuss any supplements you take with your doctor.
By Miranda Hitti, WebMD Medical News, September 2005
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