MURRAYVILLE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. Dr. Robert Peers, an Australian family physician, reports on the case of a 77-year-old farmer diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (confirmed by a neurologist). The patient, when first admitted to a nursing home, was restless and destructive and unable to dress himself. After several months he became calmer, regained weight, and was again able to dress himself. Dr. Peers ascribes the changes to the fact that the nursing home served fish every week thus providing the patient with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids which had been missing in his previous diet. In the five years prior to being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD) the farmer had been in the habit of just frying up meat, rice and vegetables in an omega-6 vegetable oil. Dr. Peers provides a compelling scientific explanation of the reasons why a deficiency in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a main component of fish oil, may lead to Alzheimer's disease. He suggests that patients with AD should be queried about an excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids (from vegetable oils and margarine) and a deficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids. If an imbalance is observed it should be treated with fish oil supplementation. He points out that DHA is quickly taken up by the brain and hypothesizes that fish oil supplementation may improve Alzheimer's symptoms and possibly even prevent the disease from progressing further.
Two other Australian physicians, Drs. Simons and Broe, find Dr. Peers' observation interesting, but caution that considerably more research needs to be done for fish oil supplementation to be recognized as an effective treatment for AD.
Peers, Robert J. Alzheimer's disease and omega-3 fatty acids: hypothesis. Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 153, November 5, 1990, pp. 563-64 (letter)