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DHA-rich diet protects brain from Alzheimer's damage, UCLA study shows

UCLA neuroscientists have shown for the first time that a diet high in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA helps protect the brain against the memory loss and cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease. The new research suggests that a DHA-rich diet may lower one's risk of Alzheimer's disease and may help slow progression of the disorder in its later stages. The journal Neuron reported the findings on Sept. 2.

"This is the first proof that our diets affect how our brain cells communicate with each other under the duress of Alzheimer's disease," explained Greg Cole, Ph.D., senior author and a professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "We saw that a diet rich in DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, dramatically reduces the impact of the Alzheimer's gene.

"Consuming more DHA is something the average person can easily control," added Cole, associate director of the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. "Anyone can buy DHA in its purified form, fish-oil capsules, high-fat fish or DHA-supplemented eggs."

Cole and his colleagues focused on Alzheimer's damage to synapses the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning.

By using mice bred with genetic mutations that cause the brain lesions linked to advanced Alzheimer's disease, the UCLA researchers created a mouse model to test environmental risk factors for the disorder. When the mice developed the lesions, but showed minimal memory loss or synaptic brain damage, however, the scientists took a closer look at the animals' diet.

"We discovered that the mice lived on a nutritious diet of soy and fish two ingredients chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids," said Sally Frautschy, Ph.D., co-author and an associate professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Because earlier studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may prevent Alzheimer's disease, we realized that the mice's diet could be countering th
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Contact: Elaine Schmidt
elaines@support.ucla.edu
310-794-2272
University of California - Los Angeles
1-Sep-2004


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