Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants could potentially benefit patients in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers recently studied the effects of this supplementation for 4 to 17 months in 12 patients with minor cognitive impairment (MCI), 2 patients with pre-MCI, and 7 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
These participants received omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in the form of a nutritional drink from Smartfish, which supported the study in part.
In an interview with Pharmacy Times, study author Milan Fiala, MD, a research professor at the University of California’s Department of Surgery, said omega-3 supplementation may benefit patients with MCI, but not those who have already developed Alzheimer’s dementia. Therefore, such supplementation would need an early start.
Patients with MCI and pre-MCI who received the supplementation saw an increase in phagocytosis of amyloid-beta, from 530 to 1306 mean fluorescence intensity units. Because such phagocytosis is ineffective in Alzheimer’s patients, targeting the clearance of amyloid-beta could benefit them, the researchers noted.
The Smartfish drink also contained resveratrol, and the combination of omega-3 and resveratrol showed evidence of improving the immune system against amyloid-beta in the brain, “probably by increasing its clearance from the brain by the immune system,” Dr. Fiala said.
While the omega-3 supplementation had “objective beneficial effects” on the immune system, which can prevent MCI, Dr. Fiala said some personal issues could interfere with the immune system response. She cited infections, surgeries, gastrointestinal intolerance, and medication noncompliance as potential interferences.
Omega-3 and antioxidant supplementation also increased resolvin D1 in macrophages in 80% of patients with MCI and pre-MCI. Resolvin D1 has also been shown to increase phagocytosis of amyloid-beta.
“Overall, the patients taking the drink seemed to preserve their memory better for up to 2 years than expected, based on previous studies,” Dr. Fiala concluded.
However, she pointed out that the study, which was published in The FASEB Journal, was small and not controlled by placebo.
Still, this study was the first to show significant immune and biochemical effects of supplementation in MCI patients, the researchers claimed.
“We’ve known for a long time that omega-3 fatty acids and some antioxidants can be beneficial to people with a wide range of health problems, as well as protective for healthy people. Now, we know that the effects of these supplements may extend to Alzheimer’s disease, as well,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal in a press release. “Although these supplements are considered to be generally safe and are very easy to obtain, full-scale clinical trials are necessary to verify the findings of this research and to identify who might benefit the most.”