Omega-3 Fatty Acid Slow
the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease?
NIH-Supported Researchers Launch Nationwide Trial
Nutritionists have long endorsed fish as
part of a heart-healthy diet, and now some studies suggest that omega-3
fatty acids found in the oil of certain fish may also benefit the brain
by lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In order to test whether
an omega-3 fatty acid can impact the progression of Alzheimer’s
disease, researchers supported by the National Institute on Aging
(NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, will evaluate one in
a clinical trial, the gold standard for medical research.
The study will be conducted nationwide by
the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a consortium of
leading researchers supported by NIA and coordinated by the University
of California, San Diego. The trial will take place at 51 sites across
the United States and seeks 400 participants age 50 and older who have
mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Joseph Quinn, M.D., associate
professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University, is
directing the study.
Researchers will be evaluating primarily
whether the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), taken over
many months, slows the progression of both cognitive and functional
decline in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. During the
18-month clinical trial, investigators will measure the progress of the
disease using standard tests for functional and cognitive change.
“The evidence to date in observational and
animal studies on omega-3 fatty acids and Alzheimer’s disease warrants
further evaluation in a rigorous clinical trial,” says NIA Director
Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “This study is one of a number we are
undertaking in the next few years through the ADCS to test compounds
that might play a role in preventing or delaying the symptoms of this
“By participating in this study, volunteers
will make an invaluable contribution to Alzheimer’s disease research
progress,” says Quinn, the study’s principal investigator. “We are
indebted to those who graciously volunteer to participate in clinical
The trial will use DHA donated by Martek
Biosciences Corporation of Columbia, Md. Participants will receive
either two grams of DHA per day or an inactive placebo pill. About 60
percent of participants will receive DHA, and 40 percent will get the
placebo. Doctors and nurses at the 51 research clinic sites will
monitor the participants in regular visits throughout the trial. To
ensure unbiased results, neither the researchers conducting the trial
nor the participants will know who is getting DHA and who is getting
In addition to monitoring disease
progression through cognitive tests, researchers will also evaluate
whether taking DHA supplements has a positive effect on physical and
biological markers of Alzheimer’s, such as brain atrophy and proteins
in blood and spinal fluid.
To learn how to participate in the study,
contact NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
at 1-800-438-4380 or by email to email@example.com.
To view a list of the research sites, go to http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers.
NIA leads the federal effort supporting and
conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral
issues of older people, including Alzheimer's disease and age-related
cognitive decline. For information on dementia and aging, please visit
the NIA's ADEAR Center at www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers,
or call 1-800-438-4380. For more general information on research and
aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical
Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a
component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is
the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic,
clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the
causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For
more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.