Study finds omega-3s combo formula gave cognitive support to Alzheimer’s sufferers

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Coffekai
©Getty Images - Coffekai

Related tags Omega-3s EPA and DHA Carotenoids Lutein Zeaxanthin Vitamin e supplements Memory mood support Alzheimer's disease

A new study has found that a formula containing omega-3s, carotenoids and vitamin E had a significant positive effect on measures of cognitive decline among an older cohort suffering from milder Alzheimer’s disease.

The new study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.​  It was the work of a team associated with a research institute, a hospital and a medical school in Ireland.

The researchers noted that previous work done at the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland in Waterford, one of the groups involved in the present study, had investigated the role of micronutrients in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

To build on that work, the researchers designed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.  As a test material they used a combination formula that included 500 mg of DHA, 150 mg of EPA, 10 mg each of lutein and meso-zeaxanthin, 2 mg of zeaxanthin and 15 mg of vitamin E.  The control arm received an equivalent placebo.

The accumulation of these micronutrients were verified with blood analyses and scans of the subjects’ skin.

Pandemic threw wrench in works

The initial goal was to recruit 120 older subjects diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, with the groups split 2:1 in favor of the treatment group. However, the recruitment phase in early 2020 ran into complications with pandemic protocols and so the study had to be truncated.  After some attrition along the way, the researchers ended up with a treatment group of 38 subjects and a control group of 19 with an average age of about 78.

The subjects, all of whom had the help of some form of caregiver, took the investigational formula or the placebo for a total of 12 months.  

Compliance was measured and assured by the caregivers.  Also, diet questionnaires were administered to assess the intake of additional carotenoids via food.

Alzheimer’s disease progression was measured with the MMSE standard tool and the Dementia Severity Rating Scale (DSRS). These questionnaires were administered by a research nurse.

The caregivers gave reports that figured into assessments of quality of life changes and the progression of frailty.

Active group does better on almost all measures

The researchers found that a greater percentage of the treatment group improved their MMSE scores and a smaller percentage declined over the course of the study as compared to the control group.

 In terms of the memory measure, the differences were even more striking.  In the control group none improved their memory scores.  A few remained unchanged while most declined.  In the active group, however, about 19% (or 6 subjects) improved their memory scores, while more than 70% held the line.  Only a handful declined over the course of a year. 

 Similar, but slightly smaller effects were observed for mood changes.  In the control group, no subjects showed a mood improvement, while slightly more remained unchanged as opposed to seeing their mood states worsen. In the active group, by contrast, a small percentage of subjects saw their mood states improve and a smaller percentage saw their mood states worsen compared to the control group. No changes between the groups were observed on the issue of frailty.

“Dietary intervention with a combination of carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E can improve these micronutrients for patients with mild to moderate stage Alzheimer’s disease. Importantly, improving these specific micronutrients suggest a positive impact on symptoms and patient outcomes, with better performance in objective measures of severity, as well as performing better from a clinical perspective in areas related to memory and mood,”​ the authors concluded.

William S. Harris, PhD renowned omega-3s researcher and head of the Fatty Acid Research Institute, said the study’s findings were intriguing.

“We are encouraged by their preliminary findings and look forward to a larger study,” ​Harris said.

Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
DOI 10.3233/JAD-220556
Supplementation With Carotenoids, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Vitamin E Has a Positive Effect on the Symptoms and Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
Authors:  Nolan JM et al.

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