Neuroprotective action of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids against neurodegenerative diseases: evidence from animal studies

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. Nov-Dec 2007;77(5-6):287-93. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2007.10.019. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


Studies in animals clearly show that oral intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can alter brain DHA concentrations and thereby modify brain functions. This provides us with an opportunity to use DHA as a nutraceutical or pharmaceutical tool in brain disorders such as Alzheimer disease (AD) and Parkinson disease (PD). Most of the published epidemiological studies are consistent with a positive association between high reported DHA consumption or high DHA blood levels and a lower risk of developing AD later in life. Such observations have prompted the investigation of DHA in three different transgenic models of AD. These analyses show that animal models of AD are more vulnerable to DHA depletion than controls and that DHA exerts a beneficial effect against pathological signs of AD, including A beta accumulation, cognitive impairment, synaptic marker loss, and hyperphosphorylation of tau. Multiple mechanisms of action can be associated with the neuroprotective effects of DHA and include antioxidant properties and activation of distinct cell signaling pathways. Although the first randomized clinical assays have yet failed to demonstrate convincing beneficial effects of DHA for AD patients, the knowledge gathered in recent years holds out a hope for prevention and suggests that the elderly and people bearing a genetic risk for AD should at least avoid DHA deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids