NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Every 70 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s – and as the population ages, that number will go up.
Finding a cure to the disease has never been more important, but one prominent natural therapy may not actually be beneficial, reports CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips.
Fish oil is full of disease-fighting nutrients. In some studies, it has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and make the condition less severe.
New research, though, shows it may not actually be the wonder drug we hoped for.
Joe and Pat Michaud are facing the changes and challenges of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
“We’ve been together for 38 years, and I’m watching my husband disappear,” Pat said.
That’s why the search for a cure is so important to the couple. Their doctor is conducting research on whether taking a supplement called DHA, found in fish oil tablets, would slow the progression of the disease.
“There are a number of studies showing depletion of DHA in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, so that was why we really focused on that one particular Omega-3 fatty acid,” neurologist Dr. Joseph Quinn said.
Dr. Quinn studied more than 400 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty percent took fish oil for 18 months, and the other 40 percent received a placebo.
“It turns out that this substance did not slow the rate of progression in people who already had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Quinn said.
The study appears this week in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and researchers say it’s disappointing since previous studies have suggested that fish oil helps.
“Even though we didn’t get the result that we really were hoping for, we got a pretty definite result, and I think there’s a real value in that,” Dr. Quinn said.
Pat Michaud said they take nothing for granted, especially the support they receive from family and friends.
“You’ve got to cherish what you’ve got now, and that’s what’s important,” she said.
As for Joe Michaud, he said he’s just your typical retiree.
“I’m retired, so I have a lot of time to relax,” he said.
Researchers say even though fish oil was not beneficial for Alzheimer’s, there also was no evidence that it was harmful.
Also, there are still compelling studies showing regular intake of the oil helps reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and some forms of cancer.