Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, may protect against the accumulation of a protein believed to be linked to Alzheimer's disease, according to the results of a new study published in the March 30, 2005 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The study used Martek DHA, which is produced from microalgae.
The study, which observed aged mice bred with genetic mutations that cause brain pathology linked to Alzheimer's disease (the APPsw transgenic mouse model), demonstrated that the pathogens linked to Alzheimer's disease (total Beta-Amyloid and plaque burden) were significantly reduced in mice fed a diet enriched with DHA.
"This study is significant because it shows that DHA added to the diet altered the processing of the amyloid precursor protein and the accumulation of its toxic amyloid protein metabolite that is widely believed to cause Alzheimer's. These and other beneficial results were observed even when the diets were changed late in life," said Dr. Greg Cole, the study's lead investigator. Dr. Cole is the Associate Director for Geriatric Research at the VA Greater Los Angeles and Professor of Medicine and Neurology at UCLA.
"While there are powerful new experimental drugs that may also work, we were doubly excited to get this result with a treatment that has already been proven so safe in humans that it is added to infant formula. Because of this proven safety and epidemiological evidence associating low DHA intake with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, we are now hopeful that clinical trials will show that DHA can prevent or help treat this terrible disease," Dr. Cole continued.
Adding to a growing body of evidence of the role of DHA in Alzheimer's, a Japanese mouse-model study published this month in The Journal of Nutrition concluded that, "DHA is a possible therapeutic agent for ameliorating learning deficiencies due to Alzheimer's disease."
The findings in these mouse models are consistent with a recent report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). AHRQ evaluated the data between omega-3 fatty acid consumption and Alzheimer's and found that, "Total omega-3 fatty acid consumption and consumption of DHA (but not ALA or EPA) were associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer's." ALA or alpha-linolenic acid is commonly found in flax seed, dark green leafy vegetables, and certain vegetable oils. EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid is commonly found in fatty fish and fish oil.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found throughout the body. It is a major structural fatty acid in the gray matter of the brain and a key component of the heart. Natural food sources of DHA are limited primarily to fatty fish and organ meat causing Americans to have among the lowest dietary intake of DHA in the world. Developed by a process that extracts DHA from algae under tightly controlled manufacturing conditions, Martek DHA is an all-natural, vegetarian source of DHA free of chemical pollutants and toxins that may be present in certain fish oils. Martek DHA is available to consumers through fortified foods and Neuromins DHA.