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Omega 3's Protects Against Parkinson's

May 09, 2009 | 53,056 views
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brainNew research findings show that omega-3 fats in your diet may protect your brain cells. It works by preventing the misfolding of a protein resulting from a gene mutation in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's.

Researchers developed a cell model with a mutation of the Ataxin-1 gene, which induces the misfolding of the protein. These deformed proteins cannot be properly processed by the cell machinery, resulting in tangled clumps of toxic protein that eventually kill the cell. But the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) protects cells from this defect.

The same researchers discovered earlier that neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), a naturally occurring molecule in the human brain that is derived from DHA, also promotes brain cell survival. NPD1 is capable of rescuing the dying cells with the pathological type of Ataxin-1, keeping their integrity intact.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you are not yet taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat supplement, I hope this latest study compels you to start. It is one of the very few supplements that I encourage nearly everyone to take, as omega-3 fats have so many important protective effects on your health -- including for serious diseases like Parkinson’s.

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder in which neurons in a region of your brain that controls movement deteriorate. The deterioration of the neurons results in a shortage of dopamine, a brain-signaling chemical, which causes problems with movement.

This study is not the first to show that omega-3 fats protect against Parkinson’s, but it is the first I’m aware of that shows DHA, one type of omega-3, prevents the misfolding of a protein resulting from a gene mutation in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's.

Previous studies have shown that when mice were fed an omega-3 rich diet, they seemed immune to the effect of MPTP, a toxic compound that causes the same kind of brain damage as Parkinson’s.

It is not at all surprising that omega-3 fats would play such an important role in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s when you consider how large of an impact they have on your brain health as well.

The Omega-3 Fat DHA is Essential for Your Brain

Animal-based omega-3 fats contain two fatty acids crucial to human health, DHA and EPA. Most of the neurological benefits of omega-3 oils are derived from the DHA component rather than the EPA component.

In fact, DHA is one of the major building blocks of your brain. About half of your brain and eyes are made up of fat, much of which is DHA -- making it an essential nutrient for optimal brain and eye function. Your brain activity actually depends greatly upon the functions provided by its outer, fatty waxy membrane to act as an electrical nerve-conduction cable.

In your brain alone, DHA may help to:

• Maintain healthy inflammatory levels.

• Stimulate neuron growth, and development and repair of synapses. (Your brain is a vast complex system of nerve cells sending and receiving signals (electrical impulses) across junctions called synapses. The small space between the two cells is where the action occurs. One neuron may synapse with as many as 1,000 other neurons. Sophisticated functions like learning and memory require this type of high-quality messaging.)

• Promote focused attention, and calmness during stressful situations, by supporting optimal dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that supports motor skill development and focus, and also plays an important role in many complex brain processes.

• Protect your brain's function by supporting optimal glutamate function. Glutamate and GABA are considered your brain's 'workhorse' neurotransmitters. They work together to control your brain's overall level of excitability, which controls many body processes.

What Type of Omega-3 Fats do I Most Recommend?

There is a lot of confusion out there when it comes to omega-3 fats, and it’s important to get this sorted out as the type of omega-3 fat you take does make a difference.

First, you want to choose an animal-based -- not a plant-based -- variety.

Most of the health benefits associated with omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, not the plant-based omega-3 fat ALA. ALA, which is the type of omega-3 found in flaxseed, is converted into EPA and DHA in your body, but only at a very low ratio.

Even if you eat large amounts of ALA, your body can only convert a relatively small amount into EPA and DHA, and only when sufficient enzymes are present.

We all need both plant- and animal-based omega-3 fats, but I have seen many people, primarily vegans, who are strongly opposed to eating any animal products, suffer serious health complications from excluding animal-based omega-3 fats.

This does not mean plant-based omega-3 fats are intrinsically harmful or that they should be avoided, only that you ideally want to include an animal-based form as well.

When it comes to choosing between animal-based omega-3 options, the primary options are fish, fish oil, cod liver oil or krill oil.

Fish gets crossed off the list right away because much of it is seriously contaminated with heavy metals like mercury and other pollutants. And I no longer recommend cod liver oil because it can have problematic ratios of vitamins A and D.

That said, I still recommend fish oil in some cases, but I believe krill oil is an even better option for most people. Personally, I take two krill oil capsules every day, because of the fact that the omega-3 is attached to phospholipids that dramatically increase its absorption, especially into brain tissue.

What’s also important is that fish oil is weak in antioxidant content, whereas krill oil contains potent antioxidants.

This is a major drawback for fish oil, because as you increase your intake of omega-3 fats by consuming fish oil, you also increase your need for even more antioxidant protection. This happens because fish oil is quite perishable, and oxidation leads to the formation of those unhealthy free radicals. Therefore, antioxidants are required to ensure the fish oil doesn't oxidize and become rancid inside your body.

The antioxidant potency of krill oil is actually 48 times higher than fish oil, and krill oil also contains astaxanthin -- a unique marine-source flavonoid -- that creates a special bond with the EPA and DHA, which allows direct metabolism of the antioxidants, making them more bioavailable for you.

There has also been some misinformation spread around the Internet that krill is not sustainable. This is NOT true. The truth is that not only is krill the largest biomass in the world, but krill harvesting is one of the best regulated on the planet, using strict international precautionary catch limit regulations that are reviewed regularly to assure sustainability. You can read more about why krill oil is completely environmentally friendly here.

More Tips for Preventing Parkinson’s Naturally

Prevention is the best option with Parkinson’s disease, as by the time someone comes down with the disease, treatment can become more difficult. Fortunately, the following tips can minimize your risk:

Optimize your vitamin D levels through sensible sun exposure or supplementation if necessary. Vitamin D deficiency is a major cause of this disease.

• Eat primarily the foods your body burns best according to its unique nutritional type.

Reduce your exposure to pesticides. Exposure to pesticides, insecticides and herbicides have all been linked to Parkinson’s disease, along with exposure to common petroleum-based hydrocarbon solvents such as paints and glues.

• Getting a better handle on your emotions by learning a tool like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

• Start an exercise program.

• Avoid excess iron. Eating a diet too high in iron puts you at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. While iron is a necessary part of staying healthy, too much iron can be devastating. Aside from the excess iron that can result from taking iron supplements, iron overload, or hemochromatosis, is actually the most common inherited disease.

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