Hospital del Mar Research Institute Hospital del Mar Research Institute


17/08/2022 - General information

Research into whether a diet rich in omega-3 helps prevent Alzheimer's disease

A joint research project from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute and the CNIC has been selected to receive a grant from the Carlos III Health Institute to analyse whether a greater presence of omega-3 in the blood is associated with a brain that is more resistant to this neurodegenerative disease.

A research project led by Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, from the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at IMIM-Hospital del Mar has received one of the research, development and innovation project grants from the Carlos III Health Institute. The study will be carried out in conjunction with the National Centre for Cardiovascular Research Carlos III (CNIC) as part of the PESA study that this institute is developing with Banco Santander. The initiative will receive 114,000 euros in funding.

The work will focus on determining the blood levels of a type of omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which comes from oily fish. This compound plays a very important role in the brain (it accumulates from the third trimester of gestation) and it has been speculated that diets rich in DHA could improve some brain features related to Alzheimer's that can be detected long before the first symptoms appear. However, the amounts of DHA in the diet that have a positive effect on the prevention of the disease have yet to be defined.

The study led by Dr. Sala-Vila will be developed by a team of experts in nutrition, fatty acid lipidomics and neuroimaging. They will use samples and brain images obtained via positron emission tomography (PET) from nearly 1000 volunteers aged 40-54 with no symptoms of Alzheimer's, who belong to the PESA-CNIC cohort. The brains of these volunteers will be tested to see whether those with higher accumulations of DHA in the blood (from their diet) are more resistant to Alzheimer's , with less amyloid accumulation and greater cerebral use of glucose.

Dr. Sala-Vila believes that, if the study's initial hypothesis is confirmed, "It will empower society, especially the middle-aged population, reinforcing the idea that the consumption of foods rich in DHA is a safe, effective and inexpensive strategy to boost the brain's resistance to Alzheimer's." In turn, he hopes that it will be possible to "identify a DHA threshold in the blood, associated with less brain vulnerability, which will inform future clinical studies of DHA supplementation, using doses that allow this threshold to be reached".

In line with this study, in 2021, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study by Dr. Sala-Vila, in which it was noted that having higher levels of omega-3 in the blood increases life expectancy by almost five years.

Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila

More news


Servei de Comunicació:
Marta Calsina Freixas(ELIMINAR)

(+34) 93 316 06 80

Doctor Aiguader, 88
08226 Barcelona

© Institut Hospital del Mar
d'Investigacions Mèdiques
Legal Notice and Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | Site Index | Accessibility | Find Us | Contact