A new study has found that people who eat foods such as fish, chicken and nuts that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also have lower levels of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein - amyloid - in their blood. The findings are published online on 2 May in the journal Neurology.
The researchers recruited 1,219 volunteers from New York who were over the age of 65 and asked them to complete a food frequency questionnaire, administered by trained interviewers. Around one year after completing the food survey, the volunteers also provided a blood sample, which the scientists used to look for amyloid.
The study showed that those participants who reported eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids had significantly lower levels of amyloid in the blood, even after adjusting for other factors such as age, sex, education, and the number of calories consumed. The main sources of omega-3 fatty acids for the volunteers were fish, salad dressings, chicken, margarine and nuts.
While the researchers also looked for associations between blood amyloid levels and other dietary nutrients including saturated fatty acids, β-carotene, vitamins E, C, D, B12 and folate, only omega-3 fatty acids were associated with lower blood amyloid levels.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, 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.
“Evidence shows that eating a healthy balanced diet can help to reduce the risk of dementia, however the causes of dementia are often complex and likely to result from a combination of lifestyle, environment, age and genetic factors. Much more research is needed to understand all of these risk factors and with 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, the need for such research has never been greater.”