The metabolism of omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids in the brain are associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has found.
Currently it is thought that the main reason for developing memory problems in dementia is the presence of two big molecules in the brain called tau and amyloid proteins, researchers said.
Researchers, including those from King’s College London in the UK, looked at brain tissue samples from around 43 people ranging in age from 57 to 95 years old.
They compared the differences in hundreds of small molecules in three groups: 14 people with healthy brains, 15 that had high levels of tau and amyloid but did not show memory problems, and 14 clinically diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients. They also looked at three different areas in the brain, one that usually shows little tau and amyloid, one that shows more tau and another that shows more amyloid.
The main molecules that were different were six small fats, including omegas, which changed in abundance in different regions of the brain. Researchers found that unsaturated fatty acids were significantly decreased in Alzheimer’s brains when compared to brains from healthy patients.
“While this was a small study, our results show a potentially crucial and unexpected role for fats in the onset of dementia. Most surprisingly, we found that a supposedly beneficial omega3, DHA, actually increased with the progression of the disease,” said Cristina Legido Quigley from King’s College London.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, which causes impaired memory, executive function and language. It accounts for 60 to 80% of total dementia cases worldwide, with over 46 million people suffering from the disease worldwide. The number of patients is estimated to rise to 131.5 million by 2050.
The study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
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