We know that the blood brain barrier serves to protect the brain from harmful chemicals that may enter the brain through the blood. However, scientists have discovered that omega-3 fatty acids are able to cross that barrier in Alzheimer's patients, affecting the markers for inflammation and disease.
Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, note that omega-3s as well as other polyunsaturated fatty acids seem to build up in the central nervous system throughout the gestation period.
The current belief is that these fatty acids are replaced throughout one's life, there is little known as to whether changes in diet may affect the movement of these fatty acids.
According the the scientists, there are a number of diseases that can change the actual characteristics of these fatty acids in the CNS. It seems that Alzheimer's patients have a lower concentration of a certain omega-3 called DHA.
Dr. Yvonne Freund-Levi stated that, "Earlier studies have shown that omega-3 can actually protect against Alzheimer's. This made the study quite interesting when testing on patients who already had Alzheimer's and were given the supplement.
The OmegaAD project followed 204 patients with Alzheimer's and found that the fatty acid levels increased in both the cerebrospinal fluid and the blood with the Omega-3 fish oils. Scientists also discovered that there were higher levels of Omega-3 in the CNS which indicates that the acids actually crossed the blood brain barrier.
33 individuals were in a recent study, where 18 were given the Omega-3 and the others a placebo for 6 months.
When the study was completed, it was found that the Omega-3 group showed markedly higher levels of the Omega-3 in the CNS, whereas the placebo group showed no change.
In addition, the scientists found that the DHA levels were in conjunction with a marked change in Alzheimer's disease and inflammation as well.
The scientists felt that the changes indicated that the fatty acids were transferring across the blood brain barrier.
Prof. Jan Palmblad, one of the authors of the study, noted that previous studies had been done in animals, where the DHA dietary supplements has caused an increase in the DHA concentrations found in the CNS.
In the past, attempts to treat Alzheimer's disease using traditional drugs had not been successful. However, with the increased DHA concentrations, there is hope that there may be new treatment methods that were not available before.
There is much work ahead, but there is hope now that these fatty acids can provide a way to reduce and even stop memory loss in Alzheimer's patients.