Omega-3 research in the news
Krill omega-3s lowered lipids
Krill oil, from deep sea crustaceans, is a rich source of the omega-3s EPA and DHA. In the largest human krill oil study so far, 300 men and women with high or borderline high triglyceride levels took from 500 mg to 4,000 mg of krill oil per day, or a placebo. After 12 weeks, for all krill oil groups combined, circulating triglycerides declined by 10.2 percent, and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, did not rise. When both triglyceride and LDL levels are high, hardening of the arteries seems to speed up, doctors said, and krill oil effectively reduced chances for this cardiovascular factor.

Reference: Nutrition Research Journal; 2014, Vol. 34, No. 2, 126-33

Omega-3 may be helpful in preserving healthy cognitive and physical function
The brain requires omega-3s and other essential fatty acids, and those with Alzheimer’s disease have lower-than-normal concentrations in the brain. In this study, 33 men and women with mild Alzheimer’s disease took 2,300 mg of high-DHA omega-3s per day, or a placebo. After six months, while the placebo group had not changed, those taking omega-3s had higher levels of DHA and EPA in the blood and in cerebrospinal fluid.

The cerebrospinal fluid finding is important in humans, doctors said, because before now they had not known if omega-3 supplements could cross the blood-brain barrier, a membrane network that separates the brain from the circulatory system and protects the central nervous system from harmful chemicals while allowing key nutrients to pass through and nourish the brain.

Doctors also found that as the levels of DHA increased, signs of Alzheimer’s disease and inflammation decreased, suggesting omega-3s may be helpful in preserving healthy cognitive and physical function.

Reference: J Intern Med.2013 Nov 23 [Epub ahead of print]

Omega-3 and alpha-lipoic acid may help delay cognitive decline
Several earlier studies found eating more fish, which contains omega-3s with anti-inflammatory properties, may help delay cognitive decline. Those with Alzheimer’s disease have abnormally high levels of oxidative stress, inflammation, and LDL cholesterol, doctors said.

In this small pilot study, researchers measured cognition in 34 people with Alzheimer’s disease before and after taking a placebo, or omega-3s with or without alpha-lipoic acid. The doses were 675 mg DHA, 975 mg EPA, and 600 mg alpha-lipoic acid per day.

After 12 months, while there were no changes in measures of oxidative stress in any of the groups, both the omega-3 and omega-3 plus alpha-lipoic acid groups had better scores in tests of math, memory, and orientation compared to placebo. Also, the omega-3 group tested better than placebo in carrying out activities of daily living, including chores such as housekeeping and shopping, which increased their chances of living independently longer.

Reference: J Alzheimers Dis 2014:38(1):111-20

Omega-3s slow cell aging
Cells contain a string of DNA with genetic information. At each end of the string are telomeres; protective caps that keep DNA in order as the cell replicates. Each time cells replicate, telomeres shorten, until there is no telomere left and the cell dies. There is a direct link between telomere length and aging.

In this telomere study, 33 older adults with mild cognitive impairment took the omega-3s EPA and DHA, or the omega-6 linoleic acid. Doctors gave a high dose of EPA with a low dose of DHA, or the reverse. The daily doses were 1,670 mg EPA plus 160 mg DHA, 1,550 mg DHA plus 400 mg EPA, or 2,200 mg linoleic acid. Previous studies suggest we should maximize omega-3s in our diet and minimize omega-6s like linoleic acid.

After six months, doctors saw an overall trend toward shorter telomeres, but the omega-6 group had the most shortening. Also, in the high-DHA group, as DHA levels increased, telomere shortening decreased. Doctors said these findings build on recent reports that omega-3s appear to slow the telomere shortening that occurs with age.

Reference: Nutrition; 2014 Apr;30(4):489-491

Omega-3s improve vision in AMD
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which gradually reduces eyesight in the center of the field of vision, is the most common form of age-related blindness. Dry AMD, affecting 90 percent of those with AMD, is the most common type. In dry AMD, the layer of pigment cells that helps protect light-sensitive cells in the eye wears thin and breaks down.

A small pilot study of those with dry AMD who took omega-3s was recently conducted. Participants took 3,400 mg of EPA per day or 1,600 mg of DHA per day, with no placebo group. This was a six-month trial, but by the middle of the fourth month, all participants in both omega-3 groups had significant improvements in visual acuity, seeing clearly at least one additional line in standard vision tests.

Doctors said these results are striking because there is no existing treatment for dry AMD and believe that the positive findings may be partly due to the higher dosage of omega-3s compared to prior AMD studies.

Reference: PharmaNutrition; October, 2013, Published Online
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