The pleiotropic effects of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid on the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease

J Nutr Biochem. 2016 Dec:38:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.03.002. Epub 2016 Mar 24.


Among omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) is important for adequate brain development and cognition. DHA is highly concentrated in the brain and plays an essential role in brain functioning. DHA, one of the major constituents in fish fats, readily crosses the blood-brain barrier from blood to the brain. Its critical role was further supported by its reduced levels in the brain of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. This agrees with a potential role of DHA in memory, learning and cognitive processes. Since there is yet no cure for dementia such as AD, there is growing interest in the role of DHA-supplemented diet in the prevention of AD pathogenesis. Accordingly, animal, epidemiological, preclinical and clinical studies indicated that DHA has neuroprotective effects in a number of neurodegenerative conditions including AD. The beneficial effects of this key omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may depend on the stage of disease progression, other dietary mediators and the apolipoprotein ApoE genotype. Herein, our review investigates, from animal and cell culture studies, the molecular mechanisms involved in the neuroprotective potential of DHA with emphasis on AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; ApoE e4; DHA; Neurodegeneration; Neuroprotection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diet therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Animals
  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotection*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids