Dr. Michael A. Collins and colleagues from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine reported the first research that suggests that omega-3 fish oil may help protect people that abuse alcohol from dementia later in life at the Sept. 8, 2013, session of the Congress of the European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism in Warsaw, Poland.
Previous research has found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol probably reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. The results have been confirmed in mouse studies and in humans. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as two drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Consumption of larger volumes of alcohol lead to dementia in mouse studies and in people according to the 143 scientific research papers the researchers reviewed as part of the new research. Dementia is induced by inflammation produced by the consumption of large amounts of alcohol. The effect is time independent and could be caused by heavy drinking at an early age.
The researchers exposed two different samples of rat brain cells to alcohol levels that were comparable to four times the legal driving limit. One set of the test rat brain cells was also exposed to a compound found in fish oil called omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The rats that were exposed to alcohol and DHA had 90 percent less brain inflammation and brain cell death than the rats exposed to alcohol alone.
The results should not be considered as a license to drink as much alcohol as one desires and take DHA as a preventative for dementia according to the researchers because DHA did not demonstrate mitigating effects on the other health issues that excessive alcohol consumption can cause.