We’ve already heard plenty of praise for the Mediterranean diet, from its ability to prevent heart disease, to even its effectiveness at protecting our eyesight as we age. A new study has gone a step further and suggested that the omega 3 fatty acids in fish, one of the main components of the Mediterranean diet, could actually help to clear away brain waste and play a role in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, now published online in The FASEB Journal, has found that the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil could improve the function of the glymphatic system, which aids in the clearing waste from the brain. In the long run, this could promote the clearance of metabolites including that play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

"These now-famous fatty acids have been the subject of major studies both in academia and industry. Just when we thought we had heard everything, here is something new, and it is provocative indeed," said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal who was not involved in the study, in a recent statement.

Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not clear, scientists believe that the buildup of tau protein in the brain causes the formation of “plaques” in the brain, which block connections between neurons. This plaque may contribute to many of Alzheimer’s cognitive symptoms. Current research into possible treatments for Alzheimer's are aimed at preventing and even reducing this plaque buildup.

The team used lab mice in order to better understand the connection between omega-3 fatty acids and brain waste. They noted that lab mice with higher levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) had less brain waste buildup than wild mice with normal levels of the nutrient. Later, when the scientists gave wild mice fish oil supplements, they found that their brain waste clearance was higher than wild mice who were not given supplements.

In addition, the researchers speculate that omega 3 fatty acids may also help to prevent brain damage from traumatic brain injury, and reduce sleep impairment.

Source: Ren H, Luo C, Feng Y, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids promote amyloid-β clearance from the brain through mediating the function of the glymphatic system. FASEB Journal . 2016

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