TUESDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- One of the main components of fish oil doesn't help slow the development of symptoms in patients with early Alzheimer's, although experts aren't ruling out the possibility that supplementation given earlier might help prevent the disease.
The supplement, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is present in abundance in the brain and previous studies had suggested it might play a role in treatment.
But that turned out not to be the case in this latest study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging and appears in the Nov. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Unfortunately, we have a very solid, but very negative, result that DHA supplementation did not slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease," study author Dr. Joseph Quinn said during a Tuesday news conference. "It's not going to help once a patient has already reached the point where they're able to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Maybe the study just started the treatment too late."
Quinn, who is assistant professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, could not say at what age DHA supplementation might provide a benefit. Prevention trials have not been done yet.
Duffy MacKay, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a group representing the supplements industry, pointed out that the length of the study was short (18 months), that participants were taking small amounts of DHA and that they weren't taking another important component of fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
EPA is virtually absent in the brain, Quinn explained.
So the new study, "would suggest that intervening in a drug-like way does not work," MacKay said. "What they really need to look at is whether fish consumption or supplementation with omega-3 oils throughout adultho
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