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Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jan;88(1):61-70. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 May 9.

Docosahexaenoic acid homeostasis, brain aging and Alzheimer's disease: Can we reconcile the evidence?

Author information

1
Research Center on Aging and Department of Medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada. Stephen.Cunnane@Usherbrooke.ca

Abstract

A crossroads has been reached on research into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). On the one hand, several prospective observational studies now clearly indicate a protective effect of higher fish and DHA intake against risk of AD. On the other hand, once AD is clinically evident, supplementation trials demonstrate essentially no benefit of DHA in AD. Despite apparently low DHA intake in AD, brain DHA levels are frequently the same as in controls, suggesting that low DHA intake results in low plasma DHA but does not necessarily reduce brain DHA in humans. Animal models involving dietary omega-3 fatty acid deficiency to deplete brain DHA may therefore not be appropriate in AD research. Studies in the healthy elderly suggest that DHA homeostasis changes during aging. Tracer methodology now permits estimation of DHA half-life in the human brain and whole body. Apolipoprotein E alleles have an important impact not only on AD but also on DHA homeostasis in humans. We therefore encourage further development of innovative approaches to the study of DHA metabolism and its role in human brain function. A better understanding of DHA metabolism in humans will hopefully help explain how higher habitual DHA intake protects against the risk of deteriorating cognition during aging and may eventually give rise to a breakthrough in the treatment of AD.

PMID:
22575581
DOI:
10.1016/j.plefa.2012.04.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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