NeuroMolecular Medicine

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 219–235 | Cite as

Neurological Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Review Paper

Abstract

The central nervous system is highly enriched in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) of the omega-6 and omega-3 series. The presence of these fatty acids as structural components of neuronal membranes influences cellular function both directly, through effects on membrane properties, and also by acting as a precursor pool for lipid-derived messengers. An adequate intake of omega-3 PUFA is essential for optimal visual function and neural development. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that increased intake of the long-chain omega-3 PUFA, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may confer benefits in a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders, and in particular neurodegenerative conditions. However, the mechanisms underlying these beneficial effects are still poorly understood. Recent evidence also indicates that in addition to the positive effects seen in chronic neurodegenerative conditions, omega-3 PUFA may also have significant neuroprotective potential in acute neurological injury. Thus, these compounds offer an intriguing prospect as potentially new therapeutic approaches in both chronic and acute conditions. The purpose of this article is to review the current evidence of the neurological benefits of omega-3 PUFA, looking specifically at neurodegenerative conditions and acute neurological injury.

Keywords

Eicosapentaenoic acid Docosahexaenoic acid Ageing Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s disease Huntington’s disease Multiple sclerosis Spinal cord injury Neurodegeneration 

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© Humana Press 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British College of Osteopathic MedicineLondonUK
  2. 2.Neuroscience Centre, Institute of Cell and Molecular Sciences, Barts and the Royal London School of Medicine and DentistryQueen Mary University of LondonWhitechapel, LondonUK

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