DHA Rejuvenates Aging Brain Cells

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

A new cell study sheds light on the importance of DHA for brain cell growth1 and rejuvenation.  The study shows that DHA helps to turn on gene transcription factors for neural stem cells to grow.  This data indicates how good nutrition can help to promote healthier brain function and offset the wear and tear of aging.

Various animal studies have found similar anti-aging nerve results.  One study showed that DHA was able to maintain2 “marked neurite-promoting potential in neurons from adult and aged animals.”  Another study showed that DHA helped maintain brain plasticity3 and cognitive function, protecting against scar tissue formation in the brain. 

Human clinical studies with DHA also point to improved brain function.  For example, 174 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease4 were given 1700 mg of DHA per day for six months.  Those in the mild group had a statistically significant reduction in the rate of decline of mental function.  This arrest in the rate of decline continued for an additional six months of the study (at which point the study ended).

This type of human data shows that adequate amounts of DHA, by itself, can help stem the tide of mental decline as long as the problem is not too advanced.  This means that individuals who are noticing signs of cognitive decline or memory loss should consume higher amounts of DHA as a preventive approach.  Of course, such a strategy can be combined with other nutrients like grape seed extract, which have also shown significant benefit in cognitive decline.

In December of 2008, a comprehensive review of the literature relating to DHA and brain aging5 was published.  This review goes over the significant body of emerging science that demonstrates DHA is an important structural and gene-signaling nutrient for brain health – and that an absence of DHA or a lack of antioxidants that protect DHA in brain cells leads to a state of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. 

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ DHA Helps Brain Cells Regenerate  Neuroscience.  Katakura M, Hashimoto M, Md Shahdat H, Gamoh S, Okui T, Matsuzaki K, Shido O.
  2. ^ DHA Boosts Nerve Cell Growth in Old Animals  Neurobiol Aging.  Robson LG, Dyall S, Sidloff D, Michael-Titus AT.
  3. ^ DHA and Brain Plasticity  Neuroscience.  Wu A, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F.
  4. ^ DHA and Alzheimer’s  Arch Neurol.   Freund-Levi Y, Eriksdotter-Jönhagen M, Cederholm T, Basun H, Faxén-Irving G, Garlind A, Vedin I, Vessby B, Wahlund LO, Palmblad J.
  5. ^ DHA and Brain Aging  Journal of Nutrition  Katakura M, Hashimoto M, Md Shahdat H, Gamoh S, Okui T, Matsuzaki K, Shido O.

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