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OHSU tests new fish oil/lipoic acid combination as Alzheimer's treatment

Pioneering clinical trial examines whether fish oil and lipoic acid combination slows cognitive and functional decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease

Oregon Health & Science University researchers are expanding a study that found a combination of dietary supplements slows the cognitive and functional decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The results may help enable people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s to live independently.

The new clinical trial will involve 100 participants in Portland, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls who will receive either a combination of lipoic acid and fish oil or a placebo. An earlier pilot study demonstrated that the combination of these dietary supplements slows the mental decline of Alzheimer’s patients.

In addition, the OHSU research team will examine the effects of fish oil and lipoic acid on other factors – including diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease – which are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. “There is some evidence that lipoic acid improves insulin metabolism – or insulin resistance – in diabetics,” said Lynne Shinto, N.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and lead investigator on the project.

The study is the first to consider the possible effects of insulin resistance on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin is key to the body’s ability to extract a sugar called glucose, the body’s main source of energy, from food. That’s potentially important to treating Alzheimer’s because the human brain uses large amounts of glucose.

The new clinical trial also will examine whether the fish oil and lipoic acid combination reduces inflammation, which can lead to brain atrophy.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging funded the study.

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