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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Falls Short in Alzheimer's Trials
Date:7/12/2009

No significant benefits seen with DHA, either in terms of prevention or treatment

SUNDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Two trials that looked at whether the omega-3 fatty acid DHA might treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease have produced mixed results.

The studies were done because of "a long history of epidemiological studies that related fish consumption to cognitive function," explained Bill Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association. Fish is rich in DHA, but the research scheduled to be presented Sunday at the association's annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, used DHA derived from algae.

An 18-month study of people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease "did not show treatment benefit in the study population as a whole, and does not support use of DHA for treatment of Alzheimer's disease," said study author Dr. Joseph Quinn, an associate professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University.

However, Quinn added that there was "an encouraging analysis of a subpopulation of the larger study," showing a slower rate of decline in mental function among those who did not have the e4 version of the APOE gene. That version is known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of people have that gene version, Quinn estimated.

Still, "we're not prepared to conclude that e4-negative people should be on DHA," Quinn said. "We don't know a mechanism that would account for a benefit in e4-negative people and we don't know if our exploratory analysis would be confirmed in future trials."

His study, funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, included 402 people, average age 76, with a daily dietary intake of less than 200 milligrams a day. Some took 2,000-milligram DHA supplements while others took a placebo. All underwent standard tests of mental function over the 18-month trial. The slower rate of decline seen in
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