Not Just for the Heart! Changes Mediated by Inflammation in the Aging Brain Reversed by Treatment with EPA

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 9 No. 2 • April 2006

Not Just for the Heart! Changes Mediated by Inflammation in the Aging Brain Reversed by Treatment with EPA

Inflammation is now well recognized as a major factor in atherosclerosis, cancer, and aging. In the brain, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) increases with aging and is associated with deterioration in cell function.1,2 In a recent study,1 four markers of apoptotic cell death [cytochrome c translocation, caspase-3 activation, poly-(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage, and terminal dUTP nick-end staining] were found to be increased in the aged rat brain cortex as well as the hippocampus, in association with increased IL-1beta concentration and p38 activation. Moreover, these changes were accompanied by age-related deficits in long-term potentiation, a process vital to learning. The 4- and 22-month-old rats were divided into two groups: those that received a diet enriched in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 10 mg/rat·day for 3 weeks and 20 mg/rat·day for 5 weeks, and those that received standard lab chow for 8 weeks.

While the IL-1beta and p38 activity were both significantly increased in cortical tissue from aged rats fed the control diet as compared to young rats on either diet, EPA supplementation prevented these age-related increases in IL-1beta concentration and p38 activity. The LTP values for the EPA-supplemented aged rats were similar to those for the young rats on either diet, whereas the aged rats on the control diet were LTP-impaired.

If you want to teach an old dog new tricks, give him EPA supplements.


  1. Martin et al. Apoptotic changes in the aged brain are triggered by interleukin-1beta-induced activation of p38 and reversed by treatment with eicosapentaenoic acid. J Biol Chem 277(37):34239-46 (2002).
  2. Dinarello. Interleukin 1 and interleukin 18 as mediators of inflammation and the aging process. Am J Clin Nutr 83(Suppl):447S-55S (2006).

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