Fish Oil Not Used in Alzheimer Study

November 10/Dartmouth, NS/PR Newswire Europe -- Several media outlets published articles last week suggesting that Omega-3 fish oil supplements fail to show positive results for Alzheimer's patients. This reporting by media outlets came after the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the study "Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer Disease: A Randomized Trial," where researchers reported that "Supplementation with DHA compared with placebo did not slow the rate of cognitive and functional decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease."

Fish oil was not used in the study, and in fact, the study clearly states that the research was performed using algal oil (which contains only DHA, whereas fish oil contains both EPA and DHA). The findings of the study are being inaccurately reported in the media, with ambiguous, misleading headlines and incorrect content.

"It is disappointing to see inaccurate misrepresentation of the facts by the media. As an example, many media outlets are leading with pictures of fish oil capsules, and using inaccurate and attention-grabbing headlines such as 'Fish oil ingredient doesn't slow Alzheimer's,' when it is very clear that the product used in the study was algal oil," stated Robert Orr, chairman of Ocean Nutrition Canada.

"It has long been postulated that both omega-3 EPA and DHA are required to influence cognitive performance. This new study suggests that DHA alone does not appear to be the solution. It should be noted that, to date, most research studies on Alzheimer's and omega-3 fatty acids with favorable outcomes have involved fish oil or fish consumption. A well-designed study should have included fish oil products with both high EPA levels and balanced EPA and DHA content. Although DHA is a major component of the brain, it should not be automatically concluded that other fatty acids have no potential role in cognitive performance.

"It should also be noted that the new study was conducted in patients with pre-existing Alzheimer's; therefore, improvements would be difficult or impossible to measure. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. There is, however, a large body of research investigating fatty fish consumption and supplementation with fish oil, which supports possible benefits of EPA and DHA in maintaining a healthy cognitive state. Most research to date suggests that intervention is most effective at the earliest stages of cognitive decline or even before impairment is observed.

"Of course, the real loser in all this is the consumer, who now must attempt to compare this inaccurate, selectively reported information with the previous positive research papers published on Omega-3 EPA and DHA from fish oil.

"What we do know is that Omega-3 EPA and DHA is perhaps the biggest dietary deficiency in the western diet. So much so that the EU Health Authorities recently established a Dietary Reference Value (DRV) of 250mg per day of EPA and DHA. They have also recently issued positive assessments on several health claims for EPA and DHA. In addition, it is also expected that updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans scheduled to be issued in December will include recommendations for the daily intake of fatty fish equivalent to 250mg EPA plus DHA per day. There is a health care crisis in North America and we look forward to continued future findings from credible studies looking at the potential benefits of combined Omega-3 EPA and DHA in improving health and well being."

From the November 15, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition