Fish Oil Linked to Lower Alzheimer's Risk


Excerpt from N.Y. Times article 11/06A substance found in fish oil may be associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias, researchers reported yesterday. The scientists found that people with the highest blood levels of an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, were about half as likely to develop dementia as those with lower levels.The substance is one of several omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fatty fish and, in small amounts, in some meats. It is also sold in fish oil or DHA supplements. The researchers looked for a reduced risk associated with seven other omega-3 fatty acids, but only DHA had any effect. The study, in the November issue of The Archives of Neurology, used data from the Framingham Heart Study to follow 899 initially healthy participants, with a median age of 76, for an average of more than nine years.People who ate two or more servings of fish a week reduced their risk for dementia by 39%, but there was no effect on the risk for dementia among those who ate less than that. Dr. Ernst Schaefer, Tufts University, the lead author of the study, was cautious in interpreting the results. “This study doesn’t prove that eating fish oil prevents dementia,” he said. “It’s an observational study that presents an identified risk factor, and the next step is a randomized placebo-controlled study in people who do not yet have dementia.If you choose to get your DHA through the use of supplements, please read the following from a recent K.C. Star article:An investigation by The Kansas City Star calculates that fish oil imports from China, a country notorious for hazardous products, now account for roughly 20% of the U.S. market. And it’s a big market, because one in five American adults now takes fish oil. The Star also found that companies sidestep import labeling rules and that federal authorities let them. No big recalls or health scandals have been linked to Chinese fish oil. And a spokesman for the People’s Republic of China said his country’s fish oil was of good quality. But consumer advocates, a leading trade group for the supplements industry, and legal experts who have examined labeling laws agree: Consumers ought to be able to tell, at a glance, whether their fish oil capsules are coming from China.A few years ago, nearly all fish oil consumed in the United States was manufactured domestically, with some made in Europe — where rules or laws governing manufacturing are strict. But U.S. fish oil use has soared, making it the #3 dietary supplement and a nearly $1 billion annual business. As sales increased, some U.S. companies started importing from Chinese facilities. In its investigation, The Star reviewed every fish oil shipment from China to the United States over 1 1/2 years. They amounted to about one-fifth of the U.S. market in 2009 and continued to increase the first half of this year. The Chinese factories that make fish oil capsules for export to the U.S. are supposed to meet FDA standards. But the FDA, according to several sources, has never inspected any Chinese dietary supplement plants. An FDA spokesman said he didn’t know whether the agency had inspected any Chinese factories. Chinese companies also have shown little interest in having independent third parties inspect their plants or in joining industry groups dedicated to ensuring the qualify of fish oil.As the old saying goes: Buyer Beware!