Fish oil supplements have long been touted as an effective way to prevent a wide variety of conditions, ranging from clinical depression to macular degeneration to psoriasis. However, a new study suggests that they may have another, extremely beneficial effect — preventing Alzheimer’s and other conditions associated with cognitive degeneration.
The study, the results of which are published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the official publication of the Alzheimer’s Association, considered subjects between the ages of 55 and 90 who were not known to be genetically predisposed to have Alzheimer’s, but who suffered from Alzheimer’s or milder forms of cognitive impairment. The test subjects’ brains were examined every six months using an MRI system.
The basic findings of the study were:
“Fish oil supplement use during follow-up was associated with significantly lower mean cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale and higher Mini-Mental State Examination scores among those with normal cognition. Associations between fish oil supplement use and the outcomes were observed only in APOE ε4–negative participants. Fish oil supplement use during the study was also associated with less atrophy in one or more brain regions of interest.”
Broken down into layman’s terms, Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients who regularly took fish oil supplements from the early onset of their Alzheimer’s or other similar conditions were able to retain their cognitive ability better than those who were not on fish oil supplements. The onset of dementia wasn’t halted entirely, but it was significantly slowed down, presumably allowing the patients to enjoy better quality of life longer.
With 44 million people worldwide and 5 million people in the United States suffering from Alzheimer’s, any study that offers hope for treatment of the condition is welcome news. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, and current medical practice involves treating the symptoms and doing what can be done to ensure reasonable physical quality of life while the patient’s cognitive functions erode.
The news that fish oil supplements — a product that is already known to offer many health benefits — may help slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s offers a glimmer of hope for those whose loved ones suffer with the condition now, even if it is not expected to lead directly to a cure.
As Dr. Lori Daiello, the study’s principle investigator, told Psych Central:
“At least one person is diagnosed every minute with Alzheimer’s disease and despite best efforts, we have not yet found a cure for this pervasive and debilitating disease. The field is currently engaged in numerous studies to find better treatments for people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease; however, researching ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or slow cognitive decline in normal aging is of utmost importance.”
Of course, not everyone agrees with the findings, and some have expressed skepticism about the validity of using fish oil supplements to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. What do you think? Would you use fish oil supplements if you or your loved one was diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s?