July 12, 2009
Omega 3 Fatty Acids No Help To Alzheimer's Patients

Omega 3 fatty acids might help before Alzheimer's but not once the disease is diagnosed. (Update: to be more precise: Once diagnosed omega 3's might slow the rate of decline if you have the right version of the ApoE - but you're still going down)

Vienna, July 12, 2009 Results from two large studies using DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid, were reported today at the Alzheimer's Association 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD 2009) in Vienna.

One of the trials was conducted by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), and the second by Martek Biosciences Corporation (Martek), the primary company that makes algal DHA for supplementation. The NIA trial lasted 18 months and was conducted in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Martek's trial was six months, and the compound was tested in healthy people to see its effect on "age related cognitive decline" (ARCD). Both studies used Martek's algal DHA.

The results of the ADCS trial show no evidence for benefit in the studied population. The Martek trial showed a positive result on one test of memory and learning, but that study was in healthy older adults, not people with Alzheimer's or another dementia. The results need confirmation, as is standard scientific practice.

Getting more omega 3 fatty acids might slow down brain aging. There is also previous research in mice that suggests omega 3's delay onset of Alzheimer's and it might do this by cutting inflammation. But once your brain has accumulated so much damage that Alzheimer's symptoms are easily discernable it is not surprising that it is too late for nutrients to make a difference. Nutrients probably work by cutting the rate of damage accumulation. Brain changes are detectable years before AD diagnosis. The damage has already been done. You might have poor vascularization starving your brain. You might have a lot of accumulated DNA damage.

What should you do? The key is to adopt healthy diet and lifestyle decades before you might get AD. Boring old fruits and vegetables appear to reduce disease risk just like for many other diseases of old age. The cholesterol lowering drug simvastatin appears to cut Alzheimer's risk too.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 July 12 01:39 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies

CP said at July 12, 2009 2:38 PM:

The dosage in the study was only 2g/day. I take more than that and I have no ailments. Perhaps a more generous dose would have more luck?

Randall Parker said at July 12, 2009 3:31 PM:


Don't know what a higher dose will do. My point is that omega 3s (especially if combined with fruits, vegetables, and other protective food) might well protect you if you start on them before the brain decay has progressed all the way to diagnosed Alzheimers.

Jake said at July 12, 2009 6:44 PM:

Dr Barry Sears has seen Alzheimer's reversal by putting his patients on 25 grams of fish oil daily (3 tablespoons). He also puts his patients on low carb diet.

Randall Parker said at July 12, 2009 9:56 PM:

I've decided to start deleting comments when people can't be bothered to come up with a unique pseudonym. "Anonymous" does not cut it. Try again.

Neo said at July 13, 2009 11:44 AM:

Too bad that simvastatin constricts the flow of blood to my lower arms, especially my hands, to the point that they feel "dead" but not tingly.

Lou Pagnucco said at July 13, 2009 12:27 PM:


Your message is too pessimistic.

The report contains the following:

"In the people who had an ApoE-e4 gene, the researchers found no benefits of DHA treatment. In contrast, those without the ApoE-e4 gene who received DHA had a slower rate of decline on the primary test of mental function (the ADAS-cog). A trend in the same direction was seen on the Mini-mental state examination, another test of mental function."

Since ApoE-e4 strongly predisposes carriers to develop Alzheimers, this group might need a cocktail of drugs/nutrients. Too bad so many trials are for mono-therapies.

John jones said at July 13, 2009 6:41 PM:

Ironically simvastatin shows a reduction in alzheimers or old age dementia, but has a meaningful ratio of subjects who have increased confusion on the med. I quit taking simvastatin and within a day had better recollection of names ( I have always been an event person rather than a people person as a legal professional) I changed to Simvastatin because of it's reputation for less dementia. In the meantime I couldn't recall or relate a name until I changed medication. I'm now on Niacin and wellchor and lots of exercise and low calorie diet. Doing well thanks.

jjii said at July 14, 2009 9:55 PM:

To John Jones: This is scary -- or I've forgotten what I just did. I read the note and decided to comment on my experience. I then read your note and it was exactly what I was going to post, virtually word for word. Ditto. whew! -- great minds run in the same ditch?

jmiddel said at September 10, 2009 8:03 AM:

I tried using Crestor (a statin) to lower my cholesterol, but ended up with neuropathy in my hands. So stopped taking it. Will go for a diet approach instead.

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