If you have spent any time researching necessary components of a healthy diet, you are likely familiar with the many benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. This essential substance, which the body is unable to make on its own, has numerous positive effects on our systems due to its ability to reduce inflammation. Because of this, everything from your heart and lungs to your brain can experience better health as a result of eating a diet heavy in omega-3s. Accordingly, a number of health organizations and nations have recommended that patients eat omega-rich fish at least twice a week or take supplements with a high omega 3 concentrate, like fish oil pills.
Now, a new study is suggesting that fish oil supplements might be able to prevent alcohol-related neurodamage. Published in the journal PlOS ONE, the study was based on previous research that showed that long-term alcohol abuse causes brain damage and increases your risk of dementia. The new findings show that a fish oil compound was able to reduce inflammation and prevent neuronal cellular death.
A research team composed of scientists from Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine, the University of Kentucky and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tested their theory by exposing the cultures of rat brains to concentrations of alcohol mimicking long-term alcohol abuse. Because chronic alcoholics often shown concentrations equal to about four times the legal driving limit, similar rates were applied to the test subjects over several days. Meanwhile, other cultures were exposed to the same levels of alcohol and a fish oil component called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The researchers found that the latter group showed up to 90% less neuroinflammation and neuronal death in their cells than the cultures only exposed to alcohol.
This finding could have a significant impact on the prevention of dementia and the treatment of alcoholism, as well as the way fish oil is bought and sold. Previous research has connected more benefits to another form of omega-3 called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), causing many people to prefer EPA only fish oil. This new research proves that DHA also has its advantages and that both components should be consumed. However, some patients may benefit more from EPA only fish oil, making it advisable to discuss your supplement choice with your doctor.
In light of their study, the research team strove to remind their readers that fish oil was not the answer to preventing dementia: instead, heavy drinkers should strive to reduce or halt their alcohol consumption. But other reports have shown that alcohol may have its benefits as well: previous research suggests that moderate drinking can also reduce the risk of dementia and age-related cognitive impairment. In the end, it may be better to take a dual approach: drink moderately if possible, but don’t forget to talk to your doctor about EPA only fish oil and other omega-rich supplements.