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Fish oils reduce chances of Alzheimer's

21st February 2011

People at risk of getting Alzheimer's disease could benefit from a diet high in fish oil, an Israeli study has found.


The disease, one of the commonest forms of dementia, is generally believed to be caused by five molecules.

Researchers led by Daniel Michaelson of Tel Aviv University have found out more about how the potency of those molecules is affected by diet and environment.

One of the five molecules is made by the apolipoprotein E. gene common to all humans, the APOE4 variant of which is a known risk factor for Alzheimer's.

Around 15% of the general population carries it, as do around half of all Alzheimer's patients.

Michaelson's team found that a diet high in Omega 3 oils and low in cholesterol appears to significantly reduce the negative effects of the APOE4 gene in mice.

The team also made a distinction between the carriers of "good" APOE gene and the carriers of APOE4.

Those with the "good" gene need a rich and stimulating environment to ward off Alzheimer's, while the same environment has a negative effect on people who carry the APOE4 gene.

Mice given toys and a play equipment including running wheels and sliding tubes responded differently depending on the genes they carried.

Those with the "good" APOE gene formed new connections between brain cells, neuronal connections in those with the APOE4 gene died from the additional stress.

The researchers concluded that humans with the bad APOE4 gene were likely to be more susceptible to stress caused by an environment that stimulated their brains.

The researchers then introduced three different kinds of diet to the mice: a normal diet, a "bad" diet high in cholesterol, and a "good" diet high in fish oil.

They found that a diet high in Omega 3 fish oil could alleviate the effects of the "bad" APOE gene.

They concluded that diet was an influential factor in counteracting the negative effects of Alzheimer's related genes.

Michaelson and his team will present their latest research at an international conference in Barcelona, Spain this March.

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