Cognition & Omega-3

New study demonstrates omega-3 fatty acids increase blood flow to regions of the brain associated with cognition

According to a new study published last Thursday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, by using neuroimaging, researchers were able to demonstrate increased blood flow in regions of the brain associated with memory and learning in individuals with higher omega-3 levels.

Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) are a group of conditions that cause mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. These conditions affect one’s ability to function socially, personally, and professionally. It’s important to recognize that Alzheimer’s disease begins long before symptoms start, just like many other conditions. There is evidence that simple prevention strategies can reduce the risk of ADRD by as much as 50%.

This new study included 166 individuals from a psychiatric clinic in which Omega-3 Index results were available. These patients were categorized into two groups: higher EPA and DHA concentrations (>50th percentile) and lower concentrations (<50th percentile). Quantitative brain single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) was performed on 128 regions of their brains and each individual completed computerized testing of their neurocognitive status.

SPECT can measure blood perfusion in the brain. In addition, performing various mentally stimulating cognitive tasks will show increased blood flow to specific brain regions. (Previous research has demonstrated that mentally stimulating activities reduce the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment even when performed later in life.) As a result, researchers identified significant relationships between the Omega-3 Index and regional perfusion on brain SPECT in areas that are involved with memory and neurocognitive testing.

This study demonstrated the positive relationships between omega-3 EPA and DHA status, brain perfusion, and cognition. This is significant because it shows a correlation between lower omega-3 fatty acid levels and reduced brain blood flow to regions important for learning, memory, depression and dementia.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Schizophrenia & Supplements

schizophrenia.jpg

In a literature review published last Tuesday, researchers evaluated studies on the status and supplementation of fish oil, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin E in patients in various stages of schizophrenia.

Although there have been medication advancements, the treatment of schizophrenia remains a challenge. There is an association with upregulated inflammation and oxidative stress in regards to schizophrenia. For this reason, supplementation of antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties should be considered.

Cytokines play a critical role in inflammatory processes between the brain and the immune system. These act directly on the CNS and abnormal levels have been associated with schizophrenia.

In addition, we know that oxidative stress contributes to poor health outcomes. As one ages, the body’s cells are more susceptible to damage and death. In addition, the body produces less energy due to slower metabolism and as a result, cells are less able to produce antioxidants and soak up free radicals. Fish oil, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin E may provide a therapeutic benefit, protecting against oxidation and abnormal levels of cytokines.

In this latest review, lower RBC omega-3 levels have been seen in those with schizophrenia. Fish oils were most effective in those with high risk and first episode psychosis patients compared to those in the chronic stage of the disease. EPA was more effective than DHA in reducing symptoms, with dosing between 2-3 grams per day.

Previous studies have demonstrated low vitamin D levels in these patients and a deficiency has been associated with more severe symptoms in first-episode schizophrenia. Research on therapeutic dosing of vitamin D is lacking; however, it is important to assess and supplement accordingly.

The status of folate and vitamin B12 has been shown to be low while plasma homocysteine levels are found to be high in schizophrenia. This is an important oxidative stress marker to indirectly assess methylation co-factors, and vitamin B6 and is commonly affected by genetic polymorphisms.

Studies on vitamin E suggest that it may enhance the effect of other nutrients (i.e., vitamin C, fish oil) in reducing schizophrenia symptoms.

Previous research also demonstrated low glutathione peroxidase levels in schizophrenia patients. Glutathione is an important antioxidant which has been found to be depleted with the natural aging process and in patients with neurodegenerative conditions.

N-acetyl-cysteine can definitely play a significant a role in helping to prevent the increased toxicity faced with aging and the body’s reduced ability to eliminate toxins. NAC has the ability to improve the metabolic resilience that is lost with the aging process as well as offering detoxification support.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS