University of Bradford student Samantha Little has been awarded a Young Investigators Award at an international congress for her work on the effect of fish oil on the ageing brain.
Fish oil is a major dietary source of the polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is important for growth and functional development and for information processing in the brain. It has been shown to have positive effects on hypertension, arthritis, depression, heart disease, some cancers and age-related disorders such as Alzheimers.
Following her research into DHA, postgraduate student Samantha was one of just 10 young investigators to be presented with an award at the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) 2004.
Samantha, who is based in the University's School of Pharmacy, said: "Around 50 to 60 per cent of brain dry weight consists of lipids and approximately 20 per cent of the brain membrane lipids consist of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The most abundant omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain is DHA.
"With the ageing process, there is a deterioration in the central nervous system, deterioration in memory, increased inflammation and increased oxidative stress and level of cholesterol in the brain. This is accompanied by a decline in the levels of DHA in the brain.
"By increasing the dietary intake of DHA, we hoped to increase the levels of DHA in the brain, and this would hopefully have positive impact on the deficits associated with ageing."
An eight-week study revealed that having a diet supplemented with DHA resulted in the levels of DHA in the brain increasing, whilst the levels of cholesterol decreased. Researchers concluded that DHA reversed the age-related deficits associated with inflammation and stress.
Samantha was awarded a certificate and £120 for her research, under the category of Young Investigators Awards for the top 10 papers presented by young (PhD students) researchers.