Nuts May Help Your Noggin

Alzheimers disease risk may be lowered with omega 3 rich food like fish and nuts

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Have an extra slice of salmon each week, or add some almonds to your weekly snacks - it may help keep your mind clearer for longer as you get on in years.

A recent study has found a link between eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of a protein that's related to Alzheimer's disease. Foods like fish, nuts and chicken are sources of omega-3s.

"Regularly eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like chicken and nuts."

lead author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, and colleagues set out to find connections between specific nutrients and a person's blood levels of a protein called beta-amyloid.

Beta-amyloid is linked to Alzheimer's disease. It's not possible to measure these beta-amyloid levels directly in the brain, but measures of it in the bloodstream can provide an indication of the protein's levels in the brain.

The study involved 1,219 people over age 65 who did not have any symptoms of dementia when the study began. For an average of 1.2 years, participants provided information on their diets.

They then provided blood samples to be tested for beta-amyloid. The researchers found a correlation between lower blood levels of beta-amyloid and higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, even after age, education, gender, ethnicity, daily calorie consumption and presence of the APOE gene were considered.

The APOE gene is a risk factor for Alzheimer's.

The link translated to approximately 20 to 30 percent lower blood levels of the protein for every gram of omega-3 a person ate that went beyond the average person's omega-3 intake. One gram could be obtained from about half a salmon fillet each week.

In addition to looking at omega-3s, the researchers also looked at nine other nutrients: omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12, beta-carotene and folate.

However, no association was found between these other nutrients and beta-amyloid levels in the blood.

"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 study appeared online May 2 in the journal Neurology. The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 2, 2012
Last Updated:
May 8, 2012