Mental health news: Omega 3 fat, alpha lipoic acid help Alzheimer's disease

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Monday Nov 11, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A randomized placebo-controlled pilot trial scheduled to appear in the Jan 2014 issue of Journal of Alzheimer's Disease suggests that taking omega-3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid as dietary supplements may help Alzheimer's patients.

L. Shinto from Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA and colleagues conducted the trials and found both the combination of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid and omega 3 fatty acids alone helped Alzheimer's disease one way or another after a 12-month supplementation.

The pathology of Alzheimer's disease is considered associated with oxidative stress, inflammation, and increased cholesterol levels and observational studies have suggested that consumption of fish, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may help Alzheimer's disease.

This trial was intended to evaluate the effects of supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids or a combination of omega-3 fatty acids on oxidative stress biomarkers - peripheral F2-isoprostane levels in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The second goal of this trial was to test the effect of these supplements on some physical and mental performance of Alzheimer's patients using "Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Activities of Daily Living/Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (ADL/IADL), and Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog)."

Enrolled in the trial were 39 patients with Alzheimer's disease who were randomized into three groups to receive placebo, omega 3 or omega 3 plus alpha lipoic acid for 12 months.  Of the participants, 87% completed the dietary 12-month intervention.

The levels of the biomarker peripheral F2-isoprostane were similar in all groups.  And omega 3 fatty acids alone and omega 3 plus alpha lipoic acid were found to make no significant difference in ADAS-cog and ADL, compared with placebo.

However, Alzheimer's patients taking omega 3 fatty acids plus alpha lipoic acid experienced less decline in MMSE and IADL and those taking omega 3 alone also showed less decline in IADL.  Additionally, patients supplemented with omega 3 and lipoic acid experienced reduced cognitive and functional decline in Alzheimer's disease over the 12 months. 

The researchers suggest further research is needed to evaluate the combination of omega-3 fatty acid plus alpha lipoic acid as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids (also called ω-3 fatty acids or n-3 fatty acids) include three fats known as Linolenic acid (ALA) (found in plant oils), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (both commonly found in marine oils).  

Common foods with animal omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids include fish oils, egg oil, krill oil, squid oils, while plant oils that contain the omega 3 ALA fatty acid include seabuckthorn seed and berry oils, flaxseed oil, algal oil, Sacha Inchi oil, Echium oil, and hemp oil.  Many of these oils are available as dietary supplements or healthy foods available over the internet and local health stores.

Alzheimer’s disease is believed to affect an estimated 5 million Americans.  The disease, which doctors say has no cure, affects people aged 65 or older.  The disease eventually completely disables the patients leading to death.

In addition to omega 3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid, many foods and supplements may prevent or help treat Alzheimer's disease.  They include melatonin, curcumin, L-carnitine, vitamin E, Panax ginseng, choline, vitamin D, red wine compound polyphenols, cocoa powder, antioxidants, Mediterranean diet, traditional Chinese medicine, vitamin C, garlic, low carb diet ,ketogenic diet, physical activity, betaine, ginkgo biloba, resveratrol, green tea compound EGCG, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. (David Liu, PHD)

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