12 January - 20 June 2016

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can pass through the blood brain barrier

18 Dec 13

A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine by researchers from Karolinska Instituet, Sweden have discovered that omega-3 fatty acids can pass through the blood-brain barrier in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Palmblad et al. investigated whether omega-3 fatty acids change the fatty acid profile of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Previous research has indicated that high consumption of fish is associated with a reduced risk of developing AD and delays cognitive decline in patients with mild cognitive impairment.  This current study involved 33 patients who had mild to moderate AD.  The participants, who were part of a larger study, randomly received four 1 g capsules daily, each containing either 430 mg DHA, and 150 mg EPA (total of 2.3 g n-3 FA daily) or a placebo oil for 6 months. Palmblad et al. collected samples of CSF and plasma using lumbar puncture and blood by venipuncture.  Levels of FAs in the plasma were analysed using gas chromatography. FAs were extracted from CSF and converted to methyl esters and then analysed using gas chromatography.  The researchers also analysed CSF for biomarkers of AD.  At baseline the participants were found to have levels of n-3 and n-6 FAs at 2.2% and 11.2% respectively of all FAs in the CSF.  There were no significant differences between each group at baseline in terms of EPA, DHA n-3 or DHA or all n-3 FAs.  After intervention, the participants who received the DHA-rich supplement had significant increases in CSF and plasma of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), DHA and total n-3 FA levels, whereas no changes were found in the placebo group.  Palmblad et al. also found significant correlations between changes over time in CSF concentration of DHA and concentrations of AD biomarkers P-tau, T-tau, and the anti-inflammatory cytokine receptor sIL-1RII.    The scientists’ state:  “together these findings support the hypothesis that increased oral intake of n-3 FAs lead to their accumulation in central nervous tissues and may affect nervous system physiology as well the pathogenesis and progression of AD, particularly in very mild AD.”  However they note that “much work remains to be done before we know how these fatty acids can be used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease to halt memory loss.”

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, part of the Investigative Analysis Team has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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