Those who eat plenty of fish (and other foods containing high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids) could be lowering their risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a recent study has suggested.
According to researchers from Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, the natural oily acid compound decreases blood levels of a protein called beta-amyloid, which is commonly linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists believe that when this protein forms, it clumps together in the brain, triggering the onset of the degenerative disease.
During the study, researchers studied 1,219 people over 65 who had no signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. The participants were questioned on their diet, lifestyle and had their blood tested for levels of beta-amyloid.
Scientists discovered that the harmful protein was lower in the blood systems of those who consumed the most amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
They also concluded that a daily dose could reduce a person's chance of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 30%.
The study also looked at other nutrients, such as omega-6 fatty acids, mono-saturated fatty acids and vitamin E, C, B12 and D – however none of these had the same effect.
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Lead researcher Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas from the study, said in a statement, according to Fox News: "While it's not easy to measure the level of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain in this type of study, it is relatively easy to measure the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood, which, to a certain degree, relates to the level in the brain."
However, a leading Alzheimer’s charity is urging for more research into the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "While this study provides interesting clues that omega-3 fatty acids in diet may be linked to amyloid levels in blood, it doesn't show whether this directly translates to less toxic amyloid in the brain and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
“So far, research into omega-3 supplements for prevention or treatment of Alzheimer's in people has not shown conclusive benefits.”
Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly found in oily fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel. Smaller amounts can also be found in nuts, some vegetables including Brussels sprouts, kale and spinach, and vegetable oils.
In the UK, 820,000 people are currently living with dementia.