For most students, college is a memorable time, chockfull of unforgettable experiences. However, the ability to remember the important moments in life is a luxury most of us unknowingly take for granted — as many patients with mental dementia can attest.
Currently, Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread form of mental dementia. It is characterized by irreversible memory loss, confusion and difficulty in problem solving. In some advanced cases it may make performing menial tasks difficult. Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 30 million people worldwide while medical research has yielded little advances in terms of a cure.
In recent years, the importance of omega-3 fatty acids — commonly found in fish, eggs and meat — in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s has been a subject of debate amongst scientists. An 18-month study led by Dr. Joseph Quinn featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association explored the supposed link between omega-3’s and optimal brain function. Quinn’s research team supplemented Alzheimer’s patients with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a common omega-3 fatty acid, but the study did not observe a noticeable reduction in brain deterioration. According to this study, DHA does not prove to be beneficial for patients with Alzheimer’s.
However, a recent study headed by Daniel Michaelson of the University of Tel Aviv concluded that an abundant presence of omega-3’s seems to impede the damaging effects of the APOE4 gene, which is present in roughly half of all diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients. While this study does not necessarily confirm that DHA found in fish oil supplements can prevent the occurrence of Alzheimer’s, it does raise hopes that preventative measures exist.
Certain UCSB researchers and professors have also helped to advance scientific understanding of Alzheimer’s through studies regarding the molecular processes responsible for neurodegenerative diseases. For example, UCSB Neuroscience Research Institute Director Stuart Feinstein has led research efforts specifically focused on the inception of Alzheimer’s disease by studying the protein “tau.”
According to a press release published by Feinstein’s research team in June, “With dementia, the brain cells, or neurons, that you need for cognitive skills are no longer working properly. Then, they’re not even there anymore because they die. That’s what leads to dementia; you’re losing neuronal capacity.”
Feinstein’s findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, may help future scientists to create more effective treatments or even a cure for this currently untreatable disease.
So to bring it back to you, Gauchos, I’ll sign off with this grain of advice in preventing Alzheimer’s: Try to eat omega-3 rich seafood such as salmon or shrimp at least once a week. Of course, the high price of seafood can pack a punch considering the limited budget of a typical college student. However what may seem like a splurge now may one day make your memory bank rich with memories of your years at UCSB.