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Mayo Clinic research team joins omega-3 fatty acids clinical trial

Mayo Clinic : 10 May, 2007  (New Product)
A Mayo Clinic research team led by neurologist David Knopman, MD, is to join a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
The Mayo Clinic team is joining a nationwide consortium of leading Alzheimer's disease researchers in this large scale clinical trial.

Nutritionists have long endorsed fish as part of a heart healthy diet, and now some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in the oil of certain fish, algae and human breast milk also may benefit the brain by lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

In order to test whether docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, can impact the progression of Alzheimer's disease, the consortium, supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will evaluate DHA in a clinical trial.

The trial, which is coordinated by the University of California, San Diego, will take place at 52 sites across the USA.

It seeks 400 participants age 50 and older with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers primarily will evaluate whether taking DHA over many months slows the progression of both cognitive and functional decline in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's.

During the 18 month clinical trial, investigators will measure the progress of the disease using standard tests for functional and cognitive change.

'Evidence to date in various research studies that have examined the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on Alzheimer's disease merits further evaluation in a rigorous clinical trial', stated Dr Knopman.

'Our hope is that we may find out that DHA plays a role in slowing the progression of this destructive disease'.

In recent European studies and the Framingham Heart Study, scientists reported that people with the highest blood levels of DHA were about half as likely to develop dementia as those who had lower levels.

'Study volunteers will be critical to helping us find out if DHA can make an impact on the disease process', said Dr Knopman.

For the clinical trial, the Martek Biosciences of Columbia, Maryland., will donate a pure form of DHA made from algae devoid of fish-related contaminants.
Participants will receive either two grams of DHA per day or an inactive placebo pill.

About 60 percent of participants will receive DHA, and 40 percent will get the placebo.

Doctors and nurses at the 52 research clinic sites will monitor the participants in regular visits throughout the trial.

To ensure unbiased results, neither the researchers conducting the trial nor the participants will know who is getting DHA and who is receiving the placebo.

In addition to monitoring disease progression through cognitive tests, researchers also will evaluate whether taking DHA supplements has a positive effect on physical and biological markers of Alzheimer's, such as brain atrophy and proteins in blood and spinal fluid.
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