Many human studies have earlier shown that long-term alcohol abuse causes brain damage and increases the risk of dementia; however, the new study found that fish oil compound protected brain cells exposed to high levels of alcohol, against inflammation and neuronal cell death.
The study was conducted by Michael A. Collins, PhD, Edward J. Neafsey, PhD, and colleagues at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and collaborators at the University of Kentucky and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Researchers found there was up to 90 percent less neuroinflammation and neuronal death in the brain cells exposed to alcohol plus omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than in the cells exposed to alcohol alone.
An earlier meta-analysis by Collins and Neafsey, which pooled the results of about 75 studies, found that moderate social drinking might have the opposite effect of reducing the risk of dementia and/or cognitive impairment during aging. Moderate drinking was defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Collins said that fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in chronic alcohol abusers but it was unlikely that it would hurt them; however, they don't want people to think it was okay to take a few fish oil capsules and then continue to go on abusing alcohol.
The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.