Alcoholics, Fish Oil and Dementia Protection


Alcohol-related dementia is on the rise. This is no thanks to the growing number of people who over-indulge in this legal, social lubricant of ours. Researchers at Stritch School of Medicine, Chicago, think that fish oil, rich in omega-3, could help to protect against dementia (alcohol-related). We know from previous studies that alcohol abuse over the long-term can increase the probability of dementia.

It's Not All Bad News for Drinkers

The news is not all bad. Earlier research has shown how moderate alcohol consumption, or social drinking, can actually reduce a person's risk of dementia and also cognitive impairment. The term “moderate drinking” depends on age, gender and build, etc. The general rule is a couple of drinks per day for men and just one for women.  The research on moderate alcoholic consumption suggests that a smaller amount stresses the cells. What this does is “toughen them up.” They’re then able to cope better with major stresses in the future, pressures that might otherwise cause dementia. Too much alcohol, on the other hand, overwhelms the cells. This is what often leads to inflammation and premature cell death.

The Study

In this study, scientists exposed the brain cell cultures of lab rats to considerable amounts of alcohol. This amount was equivalent to over four times the limit allowed for driving a vehicle. Some of the rat brain cell cultures were exposed to just alcohol. Others cell cultures were exposed to a combination of alcohol and omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil. Can you guess which cultures faired best? There was 90% less neuro-inflammation and neuronal-death in the rat brain cells exposed to the DHA and alcohol.

As always, we need more studies before any of these findings can be classed as conclusive evidence. Fish oil certainly has the “potential” for helping to preserve brain integrity in those who abuse alcohol.

Further Reading

Alcohol-related dementia: an update of the evidence

Ridley NJ, Draper B, Withall A.

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