Scientists have uncovered another health benefit of omega-3 fish oil. According to a new study, this enriched oil may help protect against alcohol-related dementia.
The long-term use of alcohol increases the risk of dementia, scientists say.
Small amounts of alcohol are likely to make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia. However, too much alcohol overwhelms the cells, leading to inflammation and cell death.
Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine carried study on brain cells of rats exposed to high levels of alcohol.
An earlier analysis by Michael A Collins and colleague Edward J Neafsey, which pooled the results of 143 studies, found that moderate social drinking may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Notably, moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Collins and colleagues exposed cultures of adult rat brain cells to amounts of alcohol equivalent to more than four times the legal limit for driving in the US. These cell cultures were compared with cultures of brain cells exposed to the same high levels of alcohol, plus a compound found in fish oil called omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
There was about 90 percent less neuroinflammation and neuronal death in the brain cells exposed to DHA and alcohol than in the cells exposed to alcohol alone.
“Fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in abusers. At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt them,” Collins said.