Researchers have recently pinpointed how vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the immune system’s ability to clear the brain of amyloid plaques, one of the trademarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a small pilot study published this week in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers identified specific genes and signaling networks regulated by vitamin D3 and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA that may help regulate inflammation and increase the clearance of plaque associated with Alzheimer’s.
“Our new study sheds further light on a possible role for nutritional substances such as vitamin D3 and omega-3 in boosting immunity to help fight Alzheimer’s,” said study author Milan Fiala, MD, a researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The researchers collected blood samples from Alzheimer’s patients and healthy controls, and isolated crucial immune cells (macrophages) from the blood. Macrophages are responsible for clearing amyloid-beta and other waste products from the brain and body.
The researchers then incubated the immune cells overnight with amyloid-beta. They added either the active form of vitamin D or an active form of omega-3 to some of the cells to assess whether they had an effect on inflammation and amyloid-beta clearance.
Both the active forms of vitamin D and omega-3 improved the ability of the Alzheimer’s macrophages to clear amyloid-beta. They both also inhibited the cell death usually initiated by amyloid-beta. Dr Fiala explains,
“We may find that we need to carefully balance the supplementation with vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids, depending on each patient in order to help promote efficient clearing of amyloid-beta. This is a first step in understanding what form and in which patients these nutrition substances might work best.”
The authors encourage a large scale study to help confirm the present findings.