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Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio and Brain-Related Functions

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Simopoulos AP, Cleland LG (eds): Omega–6/Omega–3 Essential Fatty Acid Ratio:
The Scientific Evidence. World Rev Nutr Diet. Basel, Karger, 2003, vol 92, pp 37–56
Omega–6/Omega–3 Ratio and
Brain-Related Functions
Shlomo Yehuda
Psychopharmacology Laboratory, Department of Psychology,
Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
While the general public typically perceives lipids and fats as ‘harmful’
components of the diet (as in the popular slogan: ‘fat kills’), the scientific story
is in fact very different.
Among the major scientific research efforts of the recent period, in the area
of neuroscience, we find the recognition of the ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA).
The profound effects of various fatty acids, and equally profound effects of
their deficits, are appreciated by a variety of disciplines, including (but not
necessarily limited to) lipid biochemistry, physiology, nutrition, psychology,
psychiatry, and neurosciences at large. Recently, the issue of lipids, and fatty
acids ratio in diets, became an important issue. Simopoulos [1] showed the
historical shift from a ‘balanced’ omega–6 and omega–3 ratio diet, towards a
marked and significant reduction in the omega–3 intake, and explained that the
general ‘Western diet’ of today can in actual fact be considered an omega–3-
deficient diet. Her concern is that this ‘deficiency’ may lead to coronary heart
disease and high cancer mortality.
Linoleic acid (LA; omega–6; 6; 18:26) is the parent fatty acid of the
omega–6 group. Linoleic acid must be supplied to the body by the diet, because
the body is unable to synthesize it. All other members of the omega–6 group
are derivatives of LA. Similarly, the parent compound of the omega–3 group
is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, omega–3, 3, 18:33). All other members of the
omega–3 group are merely derivatives of ALA, and together they form the
polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). In each group, the derivatives can convert to
longer chain fatty acids by using two mechanisms: desaturation and elongation.
Yehuda 38
The enzymes that are involved in these mechanisms have the same functions in
the two fatty acid groups, and therefore the omega–6 and omega–3 fatty acids
‘compete’ for the same enzymes.
While from a chemical point of view the differences between omega–6 and
omega–3 acids are very small, and may appear insignificant, they exert differ-
ent and sometimes even opposite effects. These opposing effects are not easily
explained. It was recently suggested [2] that the distinction between omega–6
and omega–3 PUFA is based on the differential capacity of protein in large,
and membrane-bound protein in particular, to ‘recognize’ various PUFA. The
dietary deficiency of omega–3 fatty acids, as well as the particular roles of
omega–6 and omega–3, will become obvious as we take a deeper look into the
ratio issue.
The Importance of the Ratio
There are several aspects to the issue of the optimal recommended ratio
between omega–6 and omega–3 fatty acids. One aspect is the recommendation
for total daily dietary intake in various phases of life (e.g. infancy, pregnancy,
adulthood and old age). Another aspect is the optimal ratio of PUFA as a food
supplement or treatment. PUFA are used in the body in a variety of conditions,
such as in dermatological diseases and in cardiovascular disorders. One partic-
ular area is the role of PUFA in the brain and the utility of PUFA to protect and
stabilize the neuronal membrane in health and in disease. Our comments in this
chapter will be limited to PUFA in the central nervous system (CNS) and CNS
conditions.
The effects of PUFA on brain function can be divided into at least five
categories: (1) modification of neuronal membrane fluidity; (2) modification
of membrane activity-bound enzymes; (3) modification of the number and
affinity of receptors; (4) modification of the function of neuronal membrane
ionic channels, and (5) modification of the production of neurotransmitters and
brain peptides [3].
Many studies have demonstrated that various PUFA mediate, or are asso-
ciated with, several aspects of brain activity, ranging from the role of EFA in
neuronal structure and functions, long-term potentiation (LTP), specific brain
activation, prostaglandin activity, to neurological and mental disorders, to mood
control. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these studies merely test one or two
specific fatty acids, and there are very few solid studies that experimentally
examine a wide range of ratios between omega–6 and omega–3. The following
review will summarize the areas in which studies on ratios were performed, and
PUFA Ratio and Brain 39
will subsequently have to leave out some of the most fascinating areas such as
depression, psychosis and pain.
Essential Fatty Acids, the Blood-Brain Barrier, and the Brain
Since EFA must be supplied via the diet, two major issues arise:
Firstly, do EFA and PUFA have the possibility to cross the blood-brain
barrier (BBB)? Recently, Rapoport [4] and Edmond [5] provided a detailed
discussion on the complex mechanism of delivery of essential PUFA, as it prog-
resses from the blood into the brain. In two developmental periods the involve-
ment of the BBB is crucial, i.e. in infancy and in aging. The human infant is
born with immature BBB and during these periods the structure and functions
of the BBB are not at their optimal levels. There have been reports of structural
changes in the BBB complex, in aging and in Alzheimer’s patients [6, 7], but
despite the knowledge about structural changes, the knowledge of functional
changes is quite limited. Most of the studies did not find changes in the rate of
transport of PUFA into the brain during aging [e.g. 8, 9]. The important, but
so far unanswered question is whether omega–6 and omega–3 fatty acids have
different rates of transport into the brain.
The second issue regarding the BBB is the brain’s ability to convert
linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids into longer chain fatty acids, arachidonic acid
(AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some researchers suspect that the
immature brain of the infant is unable to convert these fatty acids to longer
chain fatty acids. However, the majority of studies agree that even the infant
brain indeed does have such capacity [4, 10].
Brain Neurotransmitters and PUFA
The relationships between PUFA ratios and the various neurotransmitters,
as described before [11], are of special interest. It is important to note that
omega–3 deficiency induced reduction in dopamine vesicle density in the cor-
tex [12], and malfunction of the dopaminegic mesocorticolimbic pathway [13].
The ability to recover from the dopaminergic effects of omega–3 deficiency is
age-dependent [14–16]. Also, the effects of alpha-linolenic acid for recovering
from omega–3 deficiency is dependent on spatial configuration. The trans-
isomer of alpha-linolenic acid is inactive and if not enough cis-isomer is supplied,
a state of omega–3 deficiency will occur [16]. Some studies indicate similar
effects on the serotonergic system [17].
Yehuda 40
Membrane Fluidity and Myelin
Before considering the effects of PUFA on brain-mediated functions, the
effects of PUFA on brain structural components must be elucidated. Fatty acids
and lipids are major components in brain structure. Very high levels of fatty
acids and lipids can be found in two structural components; in the neuronal
membrane and in the myelin sheaths. The neuronal membrane is composed of
two lipid layers. The ratio between the proteins and the lipids is about 50–50%,
while lipids (about 70%) constitute the majority in the myelin sheaths (about
30%). The protein component is especially stable, while the lipid component
has a relatively high turnover rate.
In order to understand the diverse functions, which seem to be mediated
by the various PUFA and by the ratio of omega–6 to omega–3, we [18, 19]
proposed that the membrane fluidity index is the common denominator for the
various effects of PUFA. Some molecules are able to change the physical state
(e.g. the fluidity index) of the membrane. For example, alcohol fluidizes the
membrane, while cholesterol hardens it. There are two basic questions regarding
the hypothesis that PUFA are able to modify the neuronal membrane fluidity
index; firstly, whether changes in the lipid component of the neuronal membrane
(e.g. different ratio of various fatty acids) would lead to changes in the neuronal
functions, and secondly whether supplementation of various fatty acids would
affect the composition and the function of the neuronal membrane. A number of
studies have shown that EFA supplementation, under certain conditions of com-
position and time, indeed modifies both the structure and membrane function
(summary can be found in Yehuda et al. [20]). (More detailed studies will be
described below.)
The integrity of the myelin is of utmost importance for the proper func-
tions of axons in the nervous system. Breakage or lesions in the myelin can
lead to disintegration of many of the nervous system functions. Recent studies
emphasize the major role of dietary EFA to the normal functions of myelin.
Moreover, the EFA are very important in the active phase of the myelin
synthesis. If EFA are not available in this phase, or metabolically blocked,
amyelination, dysmyelination or demyelination may occur [21, 22]. If EFA
deficiency occurs during the postnatal period, a major delay in the myelination
process will occur, accompanied by impaired learning, motor, vision, and audi-
tory abnormalities [23]. It is of great interest to note that similar impairments
in the myelination process and in the cognitive function can also be found
in postnatally iron-deficient rodents and humans [24]. Disorders, which are
associated with myelin malfunction or with dysmyelination, can also occur
during the adult period. One such disorder is multiple sclerosis. The rate of
myelin lipids turnover is age-dependent. The turnover rate is very slow during
PUFA Ratio and Brain 41
aging, and therefore the rate of repairing damaged sections of myelin is slower
in aging [25].
Prostaglandins
One major issue among the PUFA researchers is what particular fatty acid
among the omega–6 or omega–3 PUFA group is preferable to study. On the one
hand, some prefer to study linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, as these are the
precursors to all other PUFA molecules and they have a powerful effect on
the neuronal membrane. Others prefer to study longer chain fatty acids, as they
are the precursors to the special group of prostaglandins.
Essential fatty acids are considered to be a special class of unsaturated
fatty acids that also act as precursors of yet other types of fatty acids. Most of
the prostaglandins are derivatives of AA (arachidonic acid; itself derived from
omega–6) or from DHA (docosahexanoic acid, omega–3) and all of them have
a high physiological, hormone-like, activity level. A review on prostaglandins
was recently published [19]. The various prostaglandins are involved in numerous
brain functions, sometimes with conflicting or opposing effects. Prostaglandins
are involved in functions such as regional blood flow and permeability of vari-
ous biological membranes. It has been suggested that prostaglandins are also
involved in the functional level of the activity of cAMP (a second messenger)
in the cells. The behavioral and physiological effects of a specific ratio of an
omega–6/omega–3 compound (in a ratio of 4:1) correlates with changes in the
fatty acid profile and with changes in the cholesterol level [20]. It may well be
that such a compound has an effect on the prostaglandin system as well and
mediates the behavioral and biochemical changes that have been observed in the
rats. There is evidence that prostaglandin D
2
has a profound beneficial effect on
sleep. On the other hand, other prostaglandins enhance CRF (corticotropin-
releasing factor) activity, which enhances wakefulness. CRF, in turn, induces
the release of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins also enhance TRH (thyrotropin-
releasing hormone) release, and stimulate the dopaminergic and noradrenergic
receptor activity, while beta-endorphin inhibits the prostaglandin synthesis
[11]. Very few studies examine the effect of different ratios on production
and/or activity of various prostaglandins.
Cholesterol and Fatty Acids
The membrane fluidity index is dependent on two major factors: (1) the
level and the composition and percentage of PUFA in the membrane, and
Yehuda 42
(2) the level of membrane cholesterol. An increase in the PUFA level will result
in fluidizing of the neuronal membrane, while an increase in cholesterol will
harden the membrane. The membrane should be at an optimal physiological gel
state. Therefore, cholesterol, which is a complex lipid, is involved in many func-
tions in the membrane. It is well established that cholesterol decreases the mem-
brane fluidity index, which affects the activity of ion channels and receptor
functions, as well as the dopamine release. Moreover, cholesterol is a key mole-
cule in the end product of the CRF-ACTH (adreno-cortico-tropic-hormone) axis.
Considering that steroids are derivatives of cholesterol, it is of great interest to
find that various fatty acids have differential effects on cholesterol metabolism.
Many reliable studies confirm that the administration of omega–6 fatty acids
reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood. However, omega–6 fatty acids and
omega–3 fatty acids differ in their mode of action in cholesterol reduction, such
that omega–6 fatty acids redistribute cholesterol while the omega–3 fatty acids
actually reduce the level of cholesterol in the neuronal membrane. This may
explain why an increase in the cholesterol level in the blood is found in humans
who consume omega–3 fatty acid supplements. It has been demonstrated that
omega–3 essential fatty acids are more effective in reducing cholesterol levels
in macrophages than omega–6 essential fatty acids. This is most probably due
to the differential effect on the enzyme acyl-coenzyme A activity. However,
some studies have indicated that cholesterol-esterifying enzymes that incorpo-
rate free fatty acids into cholesterol esters, without the participation of CoA, are
also present in the rat brain [26].
The mechanism by which omega–6 or omega–3 fatty acids are able to
reduce the cholesterol level in the blood or in the neuronal membrane is still
unclear, although several hypotheses have been proposed. For example, Bourre
et al. [27] claimed that alpha-linolenic acid controls the composition of nerve
membranes, which implies an inverse relationship between alpha-linolenic acid
and cholesterol level. Salem et al. [28] proposed that docosahexanoic acid
(DHA) controls the level of cholesterol as well as the composition and function
of the neuronal membrane. Another approach [unpubl. data] suggests that the
differential effects of omega–6 or omega–3 on the cholesterol level, depends on
the activity of PUFA on reduced LDL-receptor activity. A negative correlation
was found between membrane cholesterol level and improvement in learning
capacity. A number of studies provide support for reducing neuronal membrane
cholesterol by dietary supplementation of an omega–6/omega–3 compound
in a ratio of 4:1 [29]. Such correlation was not found with other ratios. It is
possible that this specific ratio (4:1) optimizes uptake of PUFA into the brain
and promotes fatty acid incorporation into the neuronal membranes, while
displacing cholesterol out of the membrane. The issue of the cholesterol
neuronal membrane level is very important, as the level of cholesterol (and
PUFA Ratio and Brain 43
cholesterol metabolites) in the aging and in the Alzheimer’s patient’s brain
is very high.
Omega–3 Deficiency
The method of inducing omega–3 deficiency via diet is a powerful tool to
investigate the role of omega–3 in various brain functions. While most studies
in this area involved the omega–3 deficiency issue, by definition, the ratio of
omega–6 and omega–3 in experimental diets was different from the ratio in
normal or balanced diets. Studies have shown that omega–3-deficient rats
(mostly the 3rd generation with deficiency) exhibited poor learning and mem-
ory performances in a variety of tests, such as Morris Water Maze [30, 31], and
olfactory-based learning and memory tasks, mainly in complex (vs. simple)
learning [32, 33]. In addition, sensory deficits were evident in those rats, such as
visual problems [34, 35]. One of Salem’s studies [28] is of specific interest in
this aspect; his omega–3-deficient rats showed very poor performance in spatial
tasks and in olfactory-cued reversal learning tasks. However, he did not find any
difference in the hippocampus gross morphology. Several hypotheses can be
offered to explain the finding of poor learning. Omega–3 deficiency induces a
significant decrease in the neuron size in the hippocampus, hypothalamus and
cortex [36] brain areas that mediate spatial and serial learning. In addition,
omega–3 deficiency induces a significant reduction in cerebral catecholamines
[37], in glucose transport capacity and glucose utilization in the brain [38], in the
cyclic AMP level in the hippocampus [39], and in brain phospholipid synthesis
capacity in the brain and in hypothalamus [40, 41]. Each one of those changes
(in the levels of catecholamines, glucose, cAMP and phospholipids) can induce
learning deficit.
The above-mentioned studies demonstrate two points; firstly, the essentiality
of omega–3 fatty acids to the structure and normal function of the brain. Secondly,
they demonstrate the importance of the ratio. It is impossible to induce omega–3
deficiency without offsetting the ratio between omega–6 and omega–3 in the
diet. Though the authors did not specifically discuss the ratio of their control
diet, our own calculations of the dietary information in the above-mentioned
studies showed that they in fact used the ratio of omega–6/omega–3 of 4:1–5:1.
Early Development
Most studies on omega–3 deficiency singled the early development
periods as an important, and almost ‘critical’ period for brain development.
Yehuda 44
Studies stress the importance of the influence of the fatty acids profile in
mothers’ milk on brain maturation. Jumpsen et al. [42, 43] showed that even
small changes in the ratio of omega–6 to omega–3 in the diet, during neuronal
and glial cell development, have significant effects on the development. He
showed that a ratio of 4:1 was the optimal ratio for the development of the
frontal cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum and glial cell number in developing
rats. Small changes in the ratio, such as 6:1, impaired the rate of development.
Though the discussion whether the addition of long chain PUFA (LCPUFA)
to baby formula is recommended is outside of the scope of this chapter, it seems
that the importance of the level of PUFA and the omega–6/omega–3 ratio in the
diet of the infant, in this sensitive development period, is emphasized by a great
number of studies [44, 45, 23].
Learning and Memory
The above discussion demonstrated that various fatty acids serve different
roles in the nervous system and in the body and it has been suggested that the
nervous system has an absolute molecular species requirement for proper function.
Studies in our laboratory confirm this finding, and even suggest an added quali-
fying requirement, viz. the need for a proper ratio between the essential fatty acids.
Many studies examine the effects of various fatty acids on learning and memory,
but very few examine the ratio between various PUFA. We experimentally tested
our hypothesis that the ratio of omega–6 and omega–3 may be a key factor in
modulating behavioral and neuropharmacological effects of polyunsaturated fatty
acids. Therefore, we attempted to identify the optimal ratio. To avoid the variations
that occur in the composition of fatty acids in commercially prepared oils, and to
exclude the possible confounding effects of other fatty acids or lipid mixtures, we
used highly purified linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids. We tested a wide range of
ratios of linoleic/alpha-linolenic acid (3:1, 3.5:1, 4:1, 4.5:1, 5:1, 5.5:1, 6:1
(vol/vol)), which were administered as dietary supplements. All animal studies
were conducted on rats, fed normal diets, as recommended by the American
Institute of Nutrition (AIN). We found that a mixture of linoleic (omega–6) and
alpha-linolenic acids (omega–3) with a ratio of 4:1 was the most effective in
improving learning performance (as assessed by the Morris Water Maze, and
passive avoidance), elevating pain threshold, improving sleep, and improving
thermoregulation [46]. This ratio was also able to correct learning deficits induced
by the neurotoxins AF64A and 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine [47], treatments that
decrease the acetylcholine and serotonin brain levels. Similarly, this ratio overcame
learning deficit induced by 6-OH-DA (e.g. reduction in brain dopamine level)
[48]. Treatment with a single fatty acid was less successful [49, 50].
PUFA Ratio and Brain 45
EFA,Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease
Aging is a special period during development. The aging brain is different
in many aspects from the adult brain. Among the many brain changes
(e.g. decrease in the level of most neurotransmitters and hormones and an
increase in cholesterol in the neuronal membrane) is that the level and the ratio
of EFA is modified. PUFAs are major molecules responsible for regulating
cellular differentiation and apoptosis [51]. Most of the studies on aging report
a significant decrease in the level and turnover of PUFA [52–55]. This major
change is a significant decrease in omega–3 fatty acids, such as -linolenic and
DHA [56]. The magnitude of the decrease in the ratio is not uniform in all brain
areas. While the decrease is significant in the cortex, striatum and hypothal-
amus, the most profound decrease was found in the hippocampus [57]. During
aging, there is a significant change in the transition temperature of the lipids,
a change which is more profound in Alzheimer’s patients [58]. This change
causes the membrane to be more rigid. The most studied fatty acids, in this
respect, are DHA (docosahexanoic, omega–3) and AA (arachidonic, omega–6).
While the level of both fatty acids is very low in the neuronal membrane of the
aged hippocampus in rats, treatment with omega–3 fatty acids improves the
membrane status [59, 60]. Basically, there are two ways to explain the low level
of PUFA in the aging brain, viz. the low rate of transport of PUFA from the
blood into the brain, and the impaired biochemical machinery that normally is
expected to incorporate and elongate the fatty acids. These two alternatives are
directly related to their respective parent issues: the problem of the blood brain
barrier and the dynamics of FA brain metabolism.
The brain of an Alzheimer’s patient undergoes more severe changes than
the brain of a healthy elderly person. Among the major changes, that are rele-
vant to our issue, is (1) the decrease in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the
brain (and in particular in the hippocampus), and (2) the major double change
in the brain lipids, whereof one is the significant increase in cholesterol level in
the neuronal membrane, accompanied by a decrease in total PUFA level. And
the other is the change in the omega–6 and omega–3 ratio. The level of
omega–3 fatty acids (mainly DHA) is severely reduced [61]. Those changes
have direct effect on the membrane fluidity index, causing the membrane to
become more rigid and eventually to malfunction.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and degenerative age-related dementia.
Among the major symptoms are: short- and long-term memory loss, impair-
ment of speech and language, decline of abstract reasoning, and mood change.
The hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disorder is the loss of spatial orientation.
Most researchers agree that the hippocampus is responsible for this function,
and indeed postmortem studies showed shrinkage of the hippocampus in
Yehuda 46
Alzheimer’s patients. The etiology of this disorder is not known, but many of
the theories have been summarized in [62]. Our preliminary studies show that
administration of a mixture of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, in a ratio of
4:1, improves the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and quality of life
test scores of Alzheimer’s patients [62]. Treatments with other ratios did not
improve the Alzheimer’s patients’ condition. Administrations of a single fatty
acid, i.e. DHA, did not improve the Alzheimer’s condition by much [63, 64].
These results reflect similar results that were obtained in animal experimental
models of Alzheimer’s.
Seizure
The relationship between lipids and fatty acid metabolism on the one hand,
and seizures on the other, has been previously described [65, 66]. The general
finding shows a gross disturbance in the fatty acid metabolisms [67–72]. One
of the effects of a seizure is the transient disruption of the blood-brain barrier
structure and functions [73, 74]. A well-known application of fatty acids in the
diet for the treatment of epilepsy is represented by the ketogenic diet for children
with refractory seizures [75, 76]. The promise of therapeutic effects that may
be realized from ketogenic diets continues to be reaffirmed by many clinical
investigators [77, 78].
The possible mode of action to account for the involvement of brain lipids
in seizures was recently summarized [65]: Lipids are important constituents of
the neuronal membrane and changes in the fatty acid profile may alter membrane
functions.
1. Essential fatty acids and phospholipids may offset the deleterious effects
of substances that induce seizures, such as iron, that have been shown to
increase lipid peroxidation.
2. Essential fatty acids and phospholipids may offer stability in membrane
fluidity that may otherwise be associated with seizures.
3. Essential fatty acids and phospholipids may control the alteration in neu-
ronal membrane phospholipid metabolism that may result from the high
prevalence of excitatory amino acid receptors in the epileptic focus.
4. A genetic link may exist between epilepsy and PUFA deficit [79], and a
mixture of DHA and EPA may provide some measure of correction.
5. Essential fatty acids may serve as neuroprotectors in the brain, similar
to effects observed in the heart, as shown in recent studies where alpha-
linolenic acid (but not palmitic acid) was found to protect against ischemic-
induced neuronal death, and to prevent kainic-induced seizures and its
associated neuronal death [80, 81].
PUFA Ratio and Brain 47
Apart from the interest in PUFA as a stabilizing agent for the neuronal
membrane in seizure, is a growing interest in the use of the ketogenic diet in
epileptic children. This diet is high-fat and low-carbohydrate, and is used to
control intractable seizures in children. The abandoned ketogenic diet was very
popular in the past and is currently being re-examined [82–85].
Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized by active degradation of the central
nervous system myelin, with clinical symptoms depending on the brain areas
that are undergoing the demyelination. The etiology of MS is unknown; however,
one of the major symptoms associated with MS is the deterioration of cognitive
functions [86]. While an ideal animal model of MS unfortunately is unavail-
able, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) is considered to be the best
available substitute [87].
Relationships between MS disease and lipids and fatty acids have been
proposed in the past [88, 89], with changes in lipid metabolism reported for MS
patients [90, 91]. In addition, changes in the level of cholesterol in the brain of
MS patients have been described [92].
Studies show that administration of a mixture of 4:1 omega–6 to omega–3
fatty acids, exerts beneficial effects in rats given a diluted dose of the EAE
toxin. The EAE rats showed learning and motor deficits as well as major
changes in the fatty acids profile and the cholesterol level in frontal cortex
synaptosomes. This treatment was, to a significant degree, able to rehabilitate
the changes induced by EAE, though not to completely reverse the deficits
to the level of normal control. None of the other PUFA ratios were as effective
as the ratio of 4:1 [93].
EFA and Sleep
Sleep quality is a major problem in the modern society. Vast numbers of
‘healthy people’ complain about the quality of their sleep. One of the major
complaints is that sleep does not refresh them enough. In addition, many disease
states are associated with objective or subjective sleep disturbances. The pre-
sumed neurochemical basis for the relationships between EFA and the different
sleep stages was recently reviewed [11, 94].
We already showed that the particular EFA ratio of 4:1, when given to
Alzheimer’s patients, significantly reduced their complaints about sleep prob-
lems, and the quality of their sleep indeed improved [62].
Yehuda 48
In addition to the above, we have more data that has not yet been published.
The new data includes three separate studies. In all the studies, a wide range of
EFA ratios were tested, and in all the studies, the ratio of 4:1 was shown to be
the optimal ratio. Two human studies were also performed:
(A) In an open trial, the 4:1 ratio was administered for 1 month (48 subjects,
aged 24–46, 55% males and 45% females). The results showed improvement in
the subjective feeling about sleep (as measured by interview). Only 3 subjects
(out of the 48 subjects) said that their sleep was not improved. No other ratio
had this high rate of success.
(B) 48 students (age: 21–27 years, 24 males and 24 females) were included
in the study. All subjects were healthy, with no history of depression or sleep
disturbances. In addition to the medical examination, each subject answered the
Hebrew version of the sleep index (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) before
entering the study as well as on the 28th day of the study. The sleep index is
intended to measure sleep quality and to identify good and bad sleepers. This
index does not provide clinical diagnosis.
The Hebrew sleep index (Bar Ilan University addition, 2001) has 21 ques-
tions, examining seven subscales of sleep (three questions for each subscale).
The subscales are: sleep quality; sleep latency; sleep duration; sleep efficiency;
sleep disturbance; sleep medication; daytime dysfunction. The total score of the
sleep index is between 0 and 21. The higher scores indicate poorer sleep. The
researchers claim that a global score of above 5 may indicate that the subject
has severe difficulties in two areas or moderate difficulties in three areas.
Table 1 shows the results of the study both as sleep index total scores
and in each subscale. The total sleep index score decreases from 7.2 at the
Table 1. Effects of 4:1 ratio on rat sleep profile
Before After
Sleep quality 0.7 0.3 0.5 0.2*
Sleep latency 1.3 0.4 0.7 0.5**
Sleep duration 1.2 0.3 0.6 0.4**
Sleep efficiency 1.3 0.4 0.7 0.3**
Sleep disturbance 0.9 0.4 0.4 0.3**
Sleep medications 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.2 NS
Daytime dysfunction 1.4 0.6 0.6 0.3**
Sleep index total 7.2 1.6 3.8 1.8**
The numbers in each cell represent the mean and standard
deviations of the score in each category. *p 0.05; **p 0.01.
PUFA Ratio and Brain 49
beginning of the study to 3.8 after 28 days (p 0.001). In all the subscales,
except one, statistical significant differences (p 0.001) were found. Only the
subscale of ‘sleep medication’ was not affected in this study. The use of sleep
medications in this age group is rare, and the baseline was very low.
In conclusion, the 4:1 ratio showed beneficial effects in this group of
students. This is a group which is generally highly stressed and the general
comment was that the 4:1 ratio helped them to study more effectively.
In order to investigate the effects of the 4:1 ratio on sleep parameters in
rats, a group of Sprague-Dawley male (about 200 g body weight) rats (n 36)
were used. EEG electrodes were fixed to the rats’ heads. All materials and
methods are described in the paper by Conrad et al. [95]. The cage of each rat
was on an activity meter. The original group of 36 rats was divided randomly
into three groups: (1) no treatment for 4 weeks; (2) a daily i.p. injection of
saline for 4 weeks, and (3) a daily injection of 40 mg/kg 4:1 ratio for 4 weeks.
Measurements of EEG profile and motor activity were done on days 0 and 28.
The results are presented in table 2.
The results show that the 4:1 ratio treated rats improved their sleep
profile. They were awake for a longer period of time, the REM sleep periods
were longer, and they had shorter non-REM periods. The total motor activity
level was higher in the 4:1 ratio treated group. The difference between the
4:1 ratio group at day 28 and the other groups is statistically significant
(p 0.05).
The combined results of human and rat studies clearly indicate that the
4:1 ratio only possesses beneficial effects on sleep quality and therefore on
daytime performance.
Table 2. Effects of 4:1 ratio on rat sleep profile
Before Control no Control 1:4 ratio
(n 36) treatment saline (n 12)
(n 12) (n 12)
Wake 740.5 28 740.9 35 745.2 29 770.4 39*
Non-REM sleep 565.5 22 584.9 30 595 42 540.9 40*
REM sleep 100.7 9 90.4 12 102.7 12 128.7 14*
Motor activity 24 h 1,450 100 1,528 110 1,349 136 1,772 98*
The results of sleep profile are presented here as means in seconds. The data for motor
activity are presented here as the means and standard deviation of total motor movements for
a 24-hour period. *p 0.05.
Yehuda 50
Stress, Cortisol and Learning
The importance of the differentiation among the various types of fatty
acids may be appreciated by noting their effects on immunological and
endocrinological factors. For example, omega–3 fatty acids suppress the syn-
thesis of interleukin-1 and 6 and enhance the synthesis of interleukin-2, while
omega–6 fatty acids have the opposite effect. It should be recalled that both
interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 (and to a lesser degree interleukin-2) promote
the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) release via arachidonic acid. However,
CRF inhibits the stimulating effect of interleukin-1 on the prostaglandin synthesis.
Cortisol exerts powerful effects on all body tissues. It increases the level of
glucose in the blood, stimulates the breakdown of proteins into amino acids,
inhibits the uptake of glucose by muscle tissues (except in the brain) and regu-
lates the response of the cardiovascular system to persistent high blood pressure.
All of these actions constitute the ‘fight or flight’ response, which helps the
organism to cope with stress situations. Recent studies, however, indicate that
cortisol may have some damaging effects, including deterioration of learning
and memory. Human studies on normal, aged, depressed, Cushing’s syndrome
patients, as well as mentally ill patients, have demonstrated a strong negative
correlation between cortisol levels and learning and memory in a wide range of
cognitive tasks. In rats, cortisol induces deterioration in spatial task performance
as measured by the Morris Water Maze (MWM) test. These negative effects may
be explained by the fact that cortisol interferes with physiological mechanisms
crucial to the structure, and function of the hippocampus. For example, stress is
known to cause atrophy of the hippocampal dendrites, damage to the pyramidal
neurons, and to interfere with synaptic activity. It is most likely that this morpho-
logical and functional hippocampal damage results from high levels of cortisol.
Recently we demonstrated that a specific mixture of free essential fatty
acids [linoleic (18:26) and alpha-linolenic (18:33)] is able to reduce the levels
of cholesterol in brain neuronal membranes [96, 20].
Hippocampal functions, which include spatial learning abilities, can be
assessed through the MWM. This popular test is used to evaluate potential
drugs for Alzheimer’s disorder, since Alzheimer’s patients exhibit great diffi-
culties in spatial orientation. Independent of hippocampal effects, hypothermia
was also shown to impair learning, as evaluated by using various tests, includ-
ing the MWM performance test, which is specially meant for spatial learning.
Further interest in the relationships between cortisol and learning arose when
recent findings showed an increase in the level of cortisol in Alzheimer’s patients,
who were also shown to have elevated levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6). It should be
noted that IL-6 receptors were found in the adrenal cortex, and that the level of
cortisol is raised by IL-6, which in turn is increased by general stress and cold.
PUFA Ratio and Brain 51
Our study [97] showed that a mixture of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids,
administered for 3 weeks prior to injection of cortisol (10 mg/kg), or prior to
immersion of rats in a 10C saline bath, blocked the elevation of cortisol and
cholesterol blood levels. In addition, this treatment protected the rats from the
spatial learning deficits that usually accompany the stressful conditions in the
Morris Water Maze. Moreover, a recent study showed that certain anti epileptic
drugs induce an increase in the cortisol level. The PUFA mixture at a 4:1 ratio
can reduce the elevated cortisol level and has anti convulsant effects [98]. Only
this ratio has the effect of decreasing elevated cortisol levels.
Conclusions
This review related mainly to linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids. The ratio
between omega–6 and omega–3 can also be maintained by using longer chain fatty
acids, such as AA and DHA. However, very few studies have been carried out on
the balance between the LCPUFA balance or ratio and brain function. The few
studies, that in fact did examine this area, were recently summarized [99, 100], and
demonstrated the importance of the ratio between omega–6 and omega–3.
It might very well be that the required ratio of omega–6 and omega–3 may
differ when used for different tissues or functions. One can understand that a
ratio of 1:1 is the optimal ratio for preventing cardiovascular diseases, and
another ratio would be optimal for cancer prevention. We are merely suggesting
that a ratio of 4:1 is the optimal ratio for brain-mediated functions. The question
is; how can it be that PUFA is of help to organisms that are only capable of
obtaining it from the diet? Our hypothesis is that omega–6 and omega–3, in a ratio
of 4:1, act within the neuronal membrane and improves the membrane fluidity
index, which is the key to all neuronal activity. Other researchers have also rec-
ommended the ratio of 4:1. The results of those studies were earlier summarized
by Yehuda and Carasso [46], and again more recently by Horrocks and Yeo [101].
We have difficulties explaining why this particular ratio is best. One possibility is
that the preferred ratio for omega–6 and omega–3 PUFA depends on the competi-
tion of the same enzymes for desaturation and elongation. Another possibility is
that PUFA, in this ratio, are able to create micella, which protects them. Whatever
the biochemical basis could be, the results showed that the 4:1 ratio has protective
and stabilizing effects on the neuronal membrane.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz-Shenkar and Ms. Ingrid Muller for their very
helpful comments on this manuscript. Furthermore, I would like to thank the Rose K. Ginsburg
Yehuda 52
Chair for Research into Alzheimer’s disease and the William Center for Alzheimer’s Research
for continued support.
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Prof. Shlomo Yehuda, Psychopharmacology Laboratory
Department of Psychology, Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan 52900 (Israel)
Tel. 972 3 5318583, Fax 972 3 5353327, E-Mail yehudas@mail.biu.ac.il
... Omega yağ asitlerini de kapsayan uzun zincirli çoklu doymamış yağ asitlerinin beyin fonksiyonları üzerindeki etkileri; sinirsel membran akışkanlığı değişikliği, membran aktivitesine bağlı enzimlerin değişikliği ve bunların sayısı ile reseptör afinitesi değişimleri, sinirsel membranlardaki iyon kanallarının işlevinin değişmesi, beyin peptitleri ve nörotransmitterlerin üretiminde meydana gelen değişiklikler ile açıklanabilmektedir [49]. Dolayısıyla birçok nöropsikiyatrik hastalık, mental bozukluk, bilişsel bozukluk, demans ve dikkat eksikliği gibi durumların oluşumu ve tedavisinde önemli rol oynamaktadır [48,35]. ...
... Yaşla birlikte gelişen bir hastalık olan Alzheimer için DHA alımının hastalığa sebep olan beyin plaklarını durdurarak ilerleyişi yavaşlattığı farelerde gösterilmiştir [54]. Yaşla birlikte ALA artışı DHA'ya dönüşerek DHA eksikliğini geri çevirebilir ancak bilişsel fonksiyonlar için DHA'nın da tek basına yeterli olmadığı sonucuna ulaşılmıştır [35,49]. Alzheimer hastalarının yaşam kalitesindeki artışın sadece 4:1 omega-3/omega-6 oranında sağlandığı gözlenmiştir [49]. ...
... Yaşla birlikte ALA artışı DHA'ya dönüşerek DHA eksikliğini geri çevirebilir ancak bilişsel fonksiyonlar için DHA'nın da tek basına yeterli olmadığı sonucuna ulaşılmıştır [35,49]. Alzheimer hastalarının yaşam kalitesindeki artışın sadece 4:1 omega-3/omega-6 oranında sağlandığı gözlenmiştir [49]. ...
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Diyetin önemli bileşenlerinden olan omega yağ asitleri yaygın olarak omega- 3, omega-6, omega-9 olarak bilinmektedir. Omega yağ asitlerinin en zengin besin kaynakları bitkisel yağlar ve balık yağlarıdır. Omega-3 ve omega-6 zorunlu olarak dışarıdan alınması gereken esansiyel yağ asitlerindendir. Omega-3, α-linolenik asit (ALA) bitkisel kaynaklı iken; eikosapentaenoik asit (EPA) ve dokosaheksaenoik asit (DHA) balıklarda bol miktarda bulunmaktadır. Bitkilerin tohumları ve özellikle fındık, ceviz gibi sert kabuklu meyveler başlıca omega yağ asidi kaynaklarıdır. Başta omega-3 olmak üzere omega yağ asitlerinin kardiyovasküler hastalıklar, bilişsel fonksiyonlar, metabolik bozukluklar, enflamatuvar hastalıklar, oksidatif stres, cilt rahatsızlıkları, göz hastalıkları, psikiyatrik bozukluklar ve Alzheimer gibi birçok hastalıkta olumlu etkileri vardır ve tedavide kullanılmaktadırlar. Ayrıca fetal gelişimin sağlanmasında da etkin rol oynadıkları bilinmektedir. Sağlık üzerindeki yararlı etkilerin görülebilmesi için omega-6/omega-3 oranının düşük olması gerekmektedir. Biyolojik etkilerinin birçoğunun mekanizması henüz tam olarak aydınlatılamamıştır. Bu makalede, önemli omega yağ asitleri hakkında genel bilgilerin, bulundukları bitkisel kaynakların, biyolojik etkilerinin ve kullanımlarının derlenmesi amaçlanmıştır ABSTRACT Omega fatty acids, one of the important components of the diet, are commonly known as omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9. The richest food sources of omega fatty acids are vegetable oils and fish oils. Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that must be taken externally. While mainly omega-3, α-linolenic acid (ALA) is of vegetable origin; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are abundant in fish. Seeds of plants and especially nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts are the main sources of omega fatty acids. Omega fatty acids, especially omega-3, have positive effects in many diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cognitive functions, metabolic disorders, inflammatory diseases, oxidative stress, skin disorders, eye diseases, psychiatric disorders and Alzheimer’s and are used in treatment. It is also known that they play an important role in fetal development. The omega-6 / omega-3 ratio should be low in order to see beneficial effects on health. The mechanisms of action have not yet been completely understood. In this article, it is aimed to review general information about important omega fatty acids, plant sources where they are found, their biological effects and uses.
... Our previous results of multivariate analyses showed that oxidation-reduction regulation affects psycho-behavioral development in ASD [33,34]. An omega-6/omega-3 PUFA ratio of 4:1 is recommended due to competition for the same enzymes during desaturation and elongation, and the protective and stabilizing capacity on the neuronal membrane [35]. Values of 34 or 25 mg/100 kcal for ARA and 17 mg/100 kcal for DHA (DHA/ARA ratio, 0.68) have been recommended for nervous system development in infants [36]. ...
... . A previous review article indicated similar results [6, 61, 62]. The present ndings regarding the importance of the plasma DHA/ARA ratio are consistent with those of previous studies[32,35]. Many previous studies have indicated that DHA/ARA ratios are important for lipid peroxidation[62][63][64][65]. ...
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Lipid peroxidation contributes to the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids undergo lipid peroxidation, and conversion to malondialdehyde (MDA). The MDA further react with acetaldehyde to form malondialdehyde-modified low-density lipoprotein (MDA-LDL). MDA-LDL is known as a marker of lipid peroxidation. However, the association between PUFAs and MDA-LDL in the pathophysiology of ASD is unclear. We studied this association in 18 young individuals with ASD and 8 age- and sex-matched normal healthy controls. Social behaviors were assessed using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). To overcome the small sample size, three measures were conducted: firstly, use of adaptive Lasso for enhancing the accuracy of prediction and interpretability; second, estimation of coefficient of variation for an appropriate variable selection; and finally, appropriate variables were selected. Plasma MDA levels and DHA/omega 6 PUFA arachidonic acid ratio were significantly higher, whereas plasma levels of superoxide dismutase were significantly lower in the ASD group than in the control group. Total SRS scores were significantly higher in the ASD group than in the control group. Multiple linear regression and adaptive Lasso revealed that plasma DHA/ARA ratio were significantly associated with total SRS scores. Plasma levels of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase were significantly decreased and plasma MDA-LDL levels were significantly increased. These findings firstly revealed that the plasma DHA/ARA ratio may be associated with social behaviors. Decreased plasma SOD levels and increased plasma MDA-LDL levels may be caused in relation to lipid peroxidation. These neurological bases may contribution to social impairment.
... Researchers have found that DHA increased sleep efficiency and reduced sleep latency in healthy young adults (15). These results supported Yehuda animal models (19). Further, low levels of ω-3 fatty acids intake have previously been associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults (18,20). ...
... Our analysis indicated that the dietary ALA intake was generally negatively correlated with the risk of sleep disorders and very short sleep duration. Researchers reported that a mixture of linoleic and ALA with a ratio of 4:1 was the most effective in improving sleep (19). Prior study also showed the effects of a mixture of ALA and linoleic acid on behavioral variables related to anxiety (mood, poor sleep, appetite, fatigue, mental concentration, and academic organization) (27). ...
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Objectives This study aimed to investigate the association of α-linolenic acid (ALA; 18:3 ω-3) dietary intake with very short sleep duration (<5 h) in adults based on the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data.Methods Multinomial logistic regression was used to explore the association of ALA intake with very short sleep. To make the estimation more robust, bootstrap methods of 1,000 replications were performed. Rolling window method was used to investigate the trend of the odds ratios of very short sleep with age. A Kruskal–Wallis test was applied to estimate the differences in the ORs of very short sleep between genders and different age groups.ResultsCompared with the first tertile, the ORs of very short sleep and the corresponding 95% CIs for the second and the third tertile of dietary ALA intake in males were 0.618 (0.612, 0.624) and 0.544 (0.538, 0.551), respectively, and in females were 0.575 (0.612, 0.624) and 0.432 (0.427, 0.437). In most cases, the differences between different ages were more significant than those between different sexes. Men's very short sleep odds ratios for the second tertile of ALA intake increased linearly with age before 60.Conclusions The risk of a very short sleep duration was negatively related to the dietary intake of ALA. The effect of ALA on very short sleep is significantly different among groups of different genders and ages.
... Az idősödő agyban az n-6 PUFA-k koncentrációja csökken, míg az n-3 csoporté nő. Az optimális arány −6 −3 = 4 1 lenne, annak érdekében, hogy védje és stabilizálja a neuronok membránját az agyban (79,80). ...
Article
Az Alzheimer-kór (AK) progresszív, multifaktoriális eredetű, jelenleg gyógyíthatatlan neurodegeneratív betegség, melynek incidenciája és prevalenciája világszerte nő a korosodó népességben. A gyógyszerkészítmények fejlődése mellett alternatív megoldásokra is szükség van, mind a prevenció, mind a kezelés érdekében. Ezen irodalmi összefoglaló fő célja a módosítható és nem módosítható kockázati tényezők ismertetése, beleértve a táplálkozást is. Számos randomizált, standardizált vizsgálat szerint egyes tápanyagok csökkentik az AK kifejlődését és segítik a kognitív funkciók fenntartását. Az AK kórtünetei közül, mint a neuronok gyulladása és elhalása, a glükózanyagcsere zavara és a homocisztein akkumulációja többé-kevésbé kivédhető a táplálkozással. A kezdeti lépéseket a szakemberek már megtették, ugyanakkor még várat magára az egymással ellentmondó eredmények feloldása és az újabb eredmények birtokában egy optimális táplálkozási irányelv kidolgozása.
... Long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA are synthesized from the essential fatty acids (EFA) α-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3ω-3) and linoleic acid (LA, 18:2ω-6), respectively [28]. These acids are synthesized in plants, so it is possible to find them in high proportions in plant-based foods [29]. ...
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The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether there are associations between polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) blood levels, reading/writing performance and performance in neuropsychological tasks. Moderate to strong correlations were found between PUFA levels (specific omega-6/omega-3 ratios) and reading/writing abilities, and the former and neuropsychological test scores. Mediation models analyzing the direct and indirect effects of PUFA on reading and writing scores showed that the effects of fatty acids on learning measures appear to be direct rather than mediated by the investigated visual and auditory neuropsychological mechanisms. The only significant indirect effect was found for the difference in accuracy between the left and right visual fields in visual-spatial cueing tasks, acting as a mediator for the effect of PUFA ratios on writing accuracy. Regression analyses, by contrast, confirmed the roles of phonological awareness and other visual attentional factors as predictors of reading and writing skills. Such results confirm the crucial role of visual-spatial attention mechanisms in reading and writing, and suggest that visual low-level mechanisms may be more sensitive to the effects of favorable conditions related to the presence of higher omega-3 blood levels.
... Nevertheless, these results strongly support a role of brain energetics. Indeed, ω3 and 6 are well known for their role in brain activity (Yehuda, 2003). Thus, here PUFA could act as alternative energy sources for the brain in a diet limiting glucose availability. ...
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Aging in modern societies is often associated with various diseases including metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders. In recent years, researchers have shown that both dysfunctions are related to each other. Although the relationship is not fully understood, recent evidence indicate that metabolic control plays a determinant role in neural defects onset. Indeed, energy balance dysregulation affects neuroenergetics by altering energy supply and thus neuronal activity. Consistently, different diets to help control body weight, blood glucose or insulin sensitivity are also effective in improving neurodegenerative disorders, dampening symptoms, or decreasing the risk of disease onset. Moreover, adapted nutritional recommendations improve learning, memory, and mood in healthy subjects as well. Interestingly, adjusted carbohydrate content of meals is the most efficient for both brain function and metabolic regulation improvement. Notably, documented neurological disorders impacted by specific diets suggest that the processes involved are inflammation, mitochondrial function and redox balance as well as ATP production. Interestingly, processes involving inflammation, mitochondrial function and redox balance as well as ATP production are also described in brain regulation of energy homeostasis. Therefore, it is likely that changes in brain function induced by diets can affect brain control of energy homeostasis and other brain functions such as memory, anxiety, social behavior, or motor skills. Moreover, a defect in energy supply could participate to the development of neurodegenerative disorders. Among the possible processes involved, the role of ketone bodies metabolism, neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, oxidative stress and inflammation or epigenetic regulations as well as gut-brain axis and SCFA have been proposed in the literature. Therefore, the goal of this review is to provide hints about how nutritional studies could help to better understand the tight relationship between metabolic balance, brain activity and aging. Altogether, diets that help maintaining a metabolic balance could be key to both maintain energy homeostasis and prevent neurological disorders, thus contributing to promote healthy aging.
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Brain lipid dysregulation is a hallmark of depression and Alzheimer’s disease, also marked by chronic inflammation. Early-life stress (ELS) and dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are risk factors for these pathologies and are known to impact inflammatory processes. However, if these early-life factors alter brain lipid homeostasis on the long-term and thereby contribute to this risk remains to be elucidated. We have recently shown that an early diet enriched in omega(ω)-3 PUFAs protected against the long-term negative effects of ELS on cognition and neuroinflammation. Here, we aim to understand if modulation of brain lipid and oxylipin profiles contributes to the detrimental effects of ELS and the protective ones of the diet. We therefore studied if and how ELS and early dietary PUFAs modulate the brain lipid and oxylipin profile, basally as well as in response to an inflammatory challenge, to unmask possible latent effects. Male mice were exposed to ELS via the limited bedding and nesting paradigm, received an early diet with high or low ω6/ω3 ratio (HRD and LRD) and were injected with saline or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in adulthood. Twenty-four hours later plasma cytokines (Multiplex) and hypothalamic lipids and oxylipins (liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry) were measured. ELS exacerbated the LPS-induced increase in IL-6, CXCL1 and CCL2. Both ELS and diet affected the lipid/oxylipin profile long-term. For example, ELS increased diacylglycerol and LRD reduced triacylglycerol, free fatty acids and ceramides. Importantly, the ELS-induced alterations were strongly influenced by the early diet. For example, the ELS-induced decrease in eicosapentaenoic acid was reversed when fed LRD. Similarly, the majority of the LPS-induced alterations were distinct for control and ELS exposed mice and unique for mice fed with LRD or HRD. LPS decreased ceramides and lysophosphotidylcholine, increased hexosylceramides and prostaglandin E2, reduced triacylglycerol species and ω6-derived oxylipins only in mice fed LRD and ELS reduced the LPS-induced increase in phosphatidylcholine. These data give further insights into the alterations in brain lipids and oxylipins that might contribute to the detrimental effects of ELS, to the protective ones of LRD and the possible early-origin of brain lipid dyshomeostasis characterizing ELS-related psychopathologies.
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Modernization of society have caused various momentous changes in dietary habits of people in this era of modern world. The modern dietary patterns are typically composed of Fatty acids mainly saturated fatty acids along with refined carbohydrates. This present-day diet together with a lifestyle with reduced physical activity is a major determinant of various metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes. All these factors are also causing a gradual increase in the prevalence of cognitive disorders mainly depressive disorders and mood disorders. Neuroinflammation is the link between the metabolic disorders and cognitive disorders and this correlation is evident by significant clinical and epidemiological data. Fatty acids are of major interest as they have twofold functions. They are major contributors of modern diet causing obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders and on the other hand they serve as signaling molecules in the inflammatory responses. The difference lies in the choice of the fatty acids that are included as a part of daily diet. Saturated fatty acids are the ones should be avoided as they are the components of high caloric obesogenic diets whereas, polyunsaturated including Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids must be consume through daily foods to prevent from Neuroinflammation considered to be the major cause of neuropsychiatric disorders.
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Modernization of society have caused various momentous changes in dietary habits of people in this era of modern world. The modern dietary patterns are typically composed of Fatty acids mainly saturated fatty acids along with refined carbohydrates. This present-day diet together with a lifestyle with reduced physical activity is a major determinant of various metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes. All these factors are also causing a gradual increase in the prevalence of cognitive disorders mainly depressive disorders and mood disorders. Neuroinflammation is the link between the metabolic disorders and cognitive disorders and this correlation is evident by significant clinical and epidemiological data. Fatty acids are of major interest as they have twofold functions. They are major contributors of modern diet causing obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders and on the other hand they serve as signaling molecules in the inflammatory responses. The difference lies in the choice of the fatty acids that are included as a part of daily diet. Saturated fatty acids are the ones should be avoided as they are the components of high caloric obesogenic diets whereas, polyunsaturated including Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids must be consume through daily foods to prevent from Neuroinflammation considered to be the major cause of neuropsychiatric disorders.
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In a number of previous reports we showed the salutary effects on rats of SR-3, a compound comprising a 1:4 ratio of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. Improvements were noted in learning tasks, thermoregulation, recovery from neurotoxins, and seizure protection. Because we were impressed that these effects are related to changes in membrane fluidity and neuronal functioning and because Alzheimer's Disease is also associated with lipid defects, we undertook a short term (4 week) double blind study with 100 Alzheimer patients (60 received SR-3 and 40 in a placebo control). The results indicated improvements in mood, cooperation, appetite, sleep, ability to navigate in the home, and short term memory. Overall improvement was reported for 49 patients, and in no case did a guardian report adverse effects to the compound. While not uniform or permanent, and while no mode of action for SR-3 can be precisely identified at this time, the promising results in quality of life for the patient and caregiver warrant further clinical trials and continued basic research into the neuropsychological substrate of the disease and its response to SR-3.
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Ingested polyunsaturated fatty acids are postulated to lead to changes in central nervous system activity, presumably by altering the lipid composition of neuronal membranes. In support of this hypothesis, we and other investigators have previously demonstrated cognitive effects in rats fed oils that contain both alpha-linolenic acid (18:3omega3) and linoleic acid (18:2omega6), with the relative content of alpha-linolenic acid being seen as the critical variable. The present study in rats examined the effects of preparations containing different ratios of highly purified free alpha-linolenic acid to linoleic acid (about 25 mg/kg of body weight daily) on learning performance (Morris water tank), pain thresholds (heated plate), and thermoregulatory control of d-amphetamine-induced hypothermia during 4 weeks of treatment. Preparations with omega3-to-omega6 ratios ranging from 1:3.5 to 1:5 (specifically a ratio of 1:4) produced significant favorable effects on all of these variables. Although the specific mode of action remains to be elucidated, these results suggest that such preparations of free fatty acids should be evaluated in the treatment of memory disorders and pain conditions.
Chapter
From the time of written history people have tended to divide the world of nutrition into two sections. One section includes all foods that are “fit” for eating, the other section, no less important, includes all the foods that are “unfit” to consume. People have also cherished the belief that certain foods are “good for thought” and other foods are “bad for thought” (Harris, 1985). Furthermore, there are yet those who believe that certain foods contain magical powers. If you want to be brave—it is claimed—the heart of the lion is good food for you. Finally, there is widespread acceptance that certain foods can heal various diseases. The effect of food on thought and behavior has been demonstrated in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. Alice not only could change her height when she was drinking the liquid, but also refered to a “treacle well” which could “cure” snakebites and various diseases.
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Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an n-3 fatty acid, is rapidlydeposited during the period of rapid brain development. The influence of n-3fatty acid deficiency on learning performance in adult rats over twogenerations was investigated. Rats were fed either an n-3 fatty acid-adequate(n-3 Adq) or -deficient (n-3 Def) diet for three generations (F1-F3). Levelsof total brain n-3 fatty acids were reduced in the n-3 Def group by 83 and 87%in the F2 and F3 generations, respectively. In the Morris water maze, the n-3Def group showed a longer escape latency and delayed acquisition of this taskcompared with the n-3 Adq group in both generations. The acquisition andmemory levels of the n-3 Def group in the F3 generation seemed to be lowerthan that of the F2 generation. The 22:5n-6/22:6n-3 ratio in the frontalcortex and dams' milk was markedly increased in the n-3 Def group, and thisratio was significantly higher in the F3 generation compared with the F2generation. These results suggest that learning and cognitive behavior arerelated to brain DHA status, which, in turn, is related to the levels of themilk/dietary n-3 fatty acids.
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The main objective of this study was to determine whether the excitotoxic cholinesterase inhibitor soman increases the catabolism of phospholipids in rat brain. Injections of soman (70 μg/kg, s.c), at a dose that produced toxic effects, increased the levels of both free fatty acids (175–250% of control) and free choline (250% of control) in rat cerebrum 1 h after administration. All fatty acids contained in brain phosphatidylcholine were elevated significantly including palmitic (16:0), stearic (18:0), oleic (18:1), arachidonic (20:4), and docosahexaenoic (22:6) acids. The changes observed were consistent with those reported to occur following ischemia and the administration of other convulsants. Pretreatment of rats with the anticonvulsant diazepam (4 mg/kg, i.p.) prevented both the signs of soman toxicity and the soman-induced increase of choline and free fatty acids. Diazepam alone did not affect the levels of choline or free fatty acids, cholinesterase activity, or soman-induced cholinesterase inhibition, suggesting that soman toxicity involves a convulsant-mediated increase in phosphatidylcholine catabolism. In addition, administration of the convulsant bicuculline, at a dose that produces seizures and increases the levels of free fatty acids in brain, significantly increased the levels of choline. Results suggest that excitotoxic events enhance the hydrolysis of phosphatidylcholine in brain as evidenced by a concomitant increase in the levels of choline and free fatty acids.