Fish, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Alzheimer’s Disease.




Archives of Neurology

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Professional Data: Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids


Fish oil contains both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both of these are members of omega-3 family of fatty acids and are different from the omega-3 fatty acids found in oils from vegetable sources. In the late 1970s, scientists learned that the native Inuits in Greenland, who consumed a diet very high in omega-3 fatty acids, had surprisingly low rates of heart attacks. Since that time thousands of scientific studies have evaluated the multiple ways that omega-3 fatty acids promotes not only cardiovascular health, but also the healthy functioning of many other biological activities. Many Americans don't get enough of it in their diets. One reason is that omega-3 oils are very susceptible to spoilage and so many food manufacturers remove it to keep products fresh. Another reason is that omega-3 oils mostly come from cold water fish and wild game— something most Americans don't eat in great quantities. The body can manufacture EPA and DHA by conversions from linolenic acid.

Animal studies have shown that consumption of fish or omega-3 fatty acids can improve functions of the brain. A recent study published in the Archives of Neurology investigated the potential role of omega-3 in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This 7-year study included 815 Alzheimer’s-free participants aged 65 to 94 years of age. Dietary intake was recorded through food questionnaires. Out of the 815 participants, 131 developed AD. After analyzing dietary intake, the researchers found that those who had fish once a week or more had a 60% decreased risk of AD when compared to those who did not regularly eat fish. In addition, the researchers found that DHA was associated with a lower risk, but EPA was not. The authors concluded that, “dietary intake of n-3 fatty acids and weekly consumption of fish may reduce the risk of incident Alzheimer disease.”1


1. Morris MC, et al. Onsumption of Fish and n-3 Fatty Acids and Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease. Arch Neurol. Jul 2003;60:940-6.