JOURNAL PLOS ONE - Omega-3 could help protect alcoholic brain
July 2014. An article published on July 16, 2014 in the journal PLOS ONE indicates that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil could help protect the brain from some of the long term adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
Michael A. Collins, PhD, Edward J. Neafsey, PhD, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, along with researchers at the University of Kentucky and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism evaluated the effects of ethanol consumption in rats. After demonstrating extensive neurodegeneration in specific brain regions among animals in which ethanol intoxication was induced, the team studied the effects of ethanol in cultured rat brain cells. While alcohol-treated cells underwent significant inflammation and death, the addition of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) prevented the effect by up to 90%.
Interestingly, a meta-analysis conducted by Drs Collins and Neafsey published in 2011 in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, concluded that moderate drinking was associated with a protective effect against age-related cognitive impairment and dementia in humans. A possible reason for the apparently contradictory finding is an increase in brain cell fitness as a result of low level alcohol-induced stress, in contrast with damage and dementia induced by high alcohol intake.
"Fish oil has the potential of helping preserve brain integrity in chronic alcohol abusers," commented Dr Collins. "At the very least, it is unlikely that it would hurt them."However, he cautioned that "We don't want people to think it is okay to take a few fish oil capsules and then continue to go on abusing alcohol."