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Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 02, 2001

Eat fish to avoid Alzheimer's, other diseases, new research advises

Eating fish may be a way to ward off Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and cognitive afflictions, according to new research by a team led by University of Guelph adjunct prof. Julie Conquer, director of Guelph's Human Nutraceutical Research Unit.

The study, reported last week in the U.S. journal Lipids, found that Alzheimer's sufferers as well as elderly subjects with other forms of dementia or cognitive impairments all had lower levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in blood samples than did elderly subjects with normal cognitive functioning.

DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in many fish species, including tuna, salmon and trout, and have already been found to lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, depression and attention deficit disorder. Eggs also contain omega-3 fatty acids.

"Our research suggests that the need to increase fish, fish products or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of both the population at large and the elderly seems prudent," said Conquer, an adjunct professor in the Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences. "This might be a challenge for non-institutionalized elderly people living alone, but should be feasible for the elderly in nursing and retirement homes and hospitals, where dietary programs are in place."

Previous evidence had suggested lower DHA levels serve as a predicting factor for Alzheimer's disease, but the new findings confirm this and are the first to also link low DHA levels to other forms of dementia as well as cognitive impairments among the elderly.

The research team of Conquer, Dr. Mary Tierney and Rory Fisher of Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Prof. William Bettger of the University of Guelph's Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences and Guelph graduate student Julie Zecevic examined blood samples from some 70 subjects living in the Toronto area.

"Low DHA levels are already affiliated with several disorders," said Conquer. "Given that our research indicates that decreased levels of DHA also appear to accompany cognitive impairment with aging, we think this is a sign we should all be eating more fish."

Dr. Julie Conquer, Director Human Nutraceutical Research Unit University of Guelph 519-824-4120, Ext. 3749

Media may also contact Alex Wooley, manager, media relations, at the University of Guelph, 519-824-4120, Ext. 6982.

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