Saturday, May 5, 2012

Eating Fish, Chicken, Nuts May Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

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A new study suggests that eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, chicken, salad dressing and nuts, may be associated with lower blood levels of a protein related to Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.

“While it’s not easy to measure the level of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain in this type of study, it is relatively easy to measure the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood, which, to a certain degree, relates to the level in the brain,” said study author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, MS, with Columbia University Medical Center in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, 1,219 people older than age 65, free of dementia, provided information about their diet for an average of 1.2 years before their blood was tested for the beta-amyloid. Researchers looked specifically at 10 nutrients, including saturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.

Omega-3 lowers blood beta-amyloid levels

The study found that the more omega-3 fatty acids a person took in, the lower their blood beta-amyloid levels. Consuming one gram of omega-3 per day (equal to approximately half a fillet of salmon per week) more than the average omega-3 consumed by people in the study is associated with 20 to 30 percent lower blood beta-amyloid levels.

Other nutrients were not associated with plasma beta-amyloid levels. The results stayed the same after adjusting for age, education, gender, ethnicity, amount of calories consumed and whether a participant had the APOE gene, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Determining through further research whether omega-3 fatty acids or other nutrients relate to spinal fluid or brain beta-amyloid levels or levels of other Alzheimer’s disease related proteins can strengthen our confidence on beneficial effects of parts of our diet in preventing dementia,” said Scarmeas.

The above story is based on the May 2, 2012 news release by American Academy of Neurology. The research is published in the May 2, 2012, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the Academy: Y. Gu, N. Schupf, S.A. Cosentino, J.A. Luchsinger, and N. Scarmeas. Nutrient intake and plasma β-amyloid. Neurology, 2012 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318258f7c2

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, visit the American Academy of Neurology website.

More about Omega-3 fatty acids

"Omega-3 fatty acids are really important to human health, whether you're talking about CVD, brain or immune health. Heath professionals have a key role to play in educating the public about the beneficial effects of including fish in their diets," said Philip Calder, a metabolic biochemist and nutritionist from the University of Southampton, UK.

Omega-3 fatty acids, explained Calder, can exert a variety of actions on cell physiology and function. “They’re anti-inflammatory and might therefore decrease the inflammatory processes within the vessel wall, which are recognised as major contributors to atherosclerosis,” he said.

Indeed, recent studies by Calder and colleagues showed that the incorporation of EPA into advanced plaques was associated with a decreased expression of various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPS), proteins which have been implicated in plaque cap thinning and increased vulnerability to rupture.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to have an anti-arrhythmic effect. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiomyocyte membrane phospholipids decreases electrical excitability and modulates the activity of ion channels (e.g. sodium, potassium and calcium, effects that are claimed to promote electrical stability in the cell and prevent arrhythmias. It is also known that omega-3 fatty acids are potent triglyceride lowering agents.


The above story is taken from the May 3, 2012 news release by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)

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