A new study shows consuming foods or supplements containing the omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA may be the best way to avoid Alzheimer's disease even if you carry a gene that makes you susceptible to the condition. For the study researchers first bred mice to carry the gene known to cause the brain lesions characteristic of the disease. Initially various environmental factors affecting the symptoms were studied but the mice only showed minimal memory or other brain-related problems.
Researchers wondered if the reason was because they were living on a diet rich in soy and fish, two foods high in DHA, which has been shown in other studies to help prevent the development of Alzheimer's. To test their hypothesis, they placed the mice on an unhealthy diet with no DHA. About half were fed this diet alone. The other half was given DHA supplements along with the unhealthy food.
Mice that ate the unhealthy diet without the DHA supplements went on to develop the kind of brain changes typically seen in Alzheimer's patients. Those that received DHA supplements, however, maintained much of their brain functioning, even though they, too, carried the Alzheimer's gene. After adjusting all possible variables it was seen that, DHA was the only factor remaining that protected the mice against the synaptic damage and memory loss that should have resulted from their Alzheimer's genes.
Researchers say DHA is easy to add to the diet and can be found in oily fish such as salmon and sardines or can be taken in supplement form. Thus researchers suggest more people consider increasing their DHA consumption.