September 13, 2010
Livers Make Less Omega 3 Fat In Alzheimer's Patients

Omega 3 fatty acid DHA, found in fish, is not produced as much in livers of Alzheimer's patients and this causes brain depletion of DHA.

Irvine, Calif. UC Irvine researchers have discovered that markedly depleted amounts of an omega-3 fatty acid in brain tissue samples from Alzheimer's patients may be due to the liver's inability to produce the complex fat, also contained in fish-oil supplements.

Low levels of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, have been associated with the chronic neurodegenerative disease affecting millions of Americans, but no cause had been identified.

In postmortem liver tissue from Alzheimer's patients, the UCI team found a defect in the organ's ability to make DHA from shorter molecules present in leafy plants and other foods. Previous studies have shown that most brain DHA is manufactured in the liver.

Non-Alzheimer's livers did not have this defect, said Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at UCI, who led the research with Giuseppe Astarita, project scientist in pharmacology.

What I wonder: Will genetic tests eventually tell some of us we need to get more DHA due to genetically-caused liver enzyme deficiencies? Short of that, blood tests could at least indicate low DHA levels. Then again, you could just eat salmon regularly and live in ignorance of whether your liver is synthesizing DHA.

Want another reason to get more DHA into your diet? Other recent research also shed light on how the anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic mechanisms of omega 3 fatty acids work:

Fish oil is touted for its anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic benefits, but scientist weren't sure how the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil work. Now, according to a report in the September 3rd issue of the journal Cell, scientists have nailed how omega-3 fatty acids both shut down inflammation and reverse diabetes in obese mice.

Omega-3s alleviate inflammation by acting on a receptor (GPR120) found in fat tissue and on inflammatory immune cells called macrophages, studies in mice show.

"Omega-3s are very potent activators of GPR120 on macrophages -- more potent than any other anti-inflammatory we've ever seen," said Jerrold Olefsky of the University of California, San Diego.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 September 13 11:53 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies

Jake said at September 14, 2010 5:27 AM:

More important than omega three in your blood stream is your omega 6/omega 3 balance. Omega 6 cancels out the benefits of omega 3s as they both use the same pathways. There is a simple in home test to determine your omega 6/omega 3 balance.

Most Americans have a omega 6/omega 3 ratio of 20 to 1. That high ratio is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, dementia and cancer. I test my ratio every 6 months and my latest test showed a ratio of 2.4 to one. Ideal is 2 to 1. I have achieved that ratio by avoiding vegetable oils, salad dressings, processed foods of any kind, fried foods in restaurants and excess nuts. Plus I supplement with fish oil and eat fish.

James Bowery said at September 14, 2010 8:21 AM:

I wonder why some of the effort going into oil from algae isn't being spent on Omega 3 oil from algae as a preliminary milestone?

Oh, I forgot. The folks in control nowadays are so specialized, all they know how to do is retain control.

Nick G said at September 15, 2010 11:21 AM:

So, flax seed oil wouldn't work well in someone with this liver defect?

Randall Parker said at September 15, 2010 5:42 PM:

Nick G,

Yes, that's my expectation.

There's also a step of converting DHA to EPA (unless I've got the direction backward).

SteveSC said at September 17, 2010 7:21 PM:

There is a company called Martek that is manufacturing DHA from algae in Kingstree, SC. I believe they supply a lot of the DHA in infant formula.

Clarium said at September 19, 2010 9:30 PM:

You got the step backwards Randall. DHA has 22 carbons while EHA has 20. The human body does not the desaturatase to make omega 3 fatty acids, but it can extend alpha-linolenic acid with elongases and desaturate other C-C bonds besides the omega-3 bond.

Wolf-Dog said at September 20, 2010 9:31 PM:

Algae based DHA is available from CVS Pharmacy at a low price. Note that these tablets sold by CVS have 300 mg DHA, and taking 900 mg per day is said to be significantly helpful for memory and brain health.

Mercury in fish oil: Note that although some commercial fish oil formulations are purified from mercury and other toxic metals by means of molecular distillation, there are articles that say that molecular distillation somehow alters the fish oil and makes it toxic in other ways.

Thus assuming that the algae for DHA is harvested from clean parts of the sea, it is a good idea to take algae based DHA instead of fish oil. Sardine based fish oil might also be safe as long as you are not taking too much, since even sardines might contain some mercury.

attendance record said at September 24, 2010 3:19 AM:

Thanks for this very informative post. I find it very useful.

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