Unsaturated Fat May Reduce Chances of Alzheimer's

Oct 23, 2004 12:39 PM EDT

According to a recent study, a diet that includes sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, appears to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The study, published in a recent issue of the Archives of Neurology, investigates the link between diet and Alzheimer's disease and, in particular, the consumption of dietary fat.

Linked saturated and trans fats to Alzheimer’s risk

Researchers followed the health of 815 patients, 65 and older who were Alzheimer's-free. During the four-year study, 131 people developed the disease.

After evaluating the study group’s dietary data, the researchers were able to link saturated fat and trans-unsaturated fat with an increased risk of Alzheimer's, finding those ingesting a high intake of saturated fat had a 2.2-times higher risk of Alzheimer's in contrast to those with a lower intake. Also, omega-6 polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat were found to decrease this risk.

Fish reduces risk

Fish in particular proved to be an essential component in reducing the risk. Of the 815 patients, those who consumed fish at least once a week were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who rarely or never consumed fish. Paired with results of previous studies, the research suggests that consumption of fish (at least weekly), oil-based salad dressings and nuts may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The findings also indicated that total fat, animal fat and dietary cholesterol did not appear to be associated with the development of Alzheimer's.


1. Robert P. Friedland, “Fish Consumption and the Risk of Alzheimer Disease: Is It Time to Make Dietary Recommendations?” Archives of Neurology, 2003; 60: 923-924.

2. Martha C. Morris, et al., “Dietary Fats and the Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease,” Archives of Neurology, 2003; 60:194-200.