The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 14 No. 1 • February 2011

Dietary Intake of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Provides More Neuroprotection in Transgenic
Mice That Can Convert Omega-6 Fatty Acids to
Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A very recent study1 reports on the neuroprotective effects of DHA in a mouse Parkinson’s disease model. The unique aspect of this experiment was that the mice were transgenically altered to express an n-3 fatty acid desaturase that allowed the mice to convert n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids into n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, something that neither mice nor humans can do under normal conditions.

The authors had recently published a report in which they identified a “remarkable” neuroprotective effect of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated acids (PUFA) in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. They found that consumption of an n-3 PUFA-enriched diet for 10 months led to higher levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in the brain which protected from the detrimental effects of MPTP, a free radical neurotoxin (including protection against MPTP inducing the development of a Parkinson’s disease-like condition). They reported that increased expression of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, important in learning and memory and neurogenesis) was an important factor in this protection by DHA.

As mice, like humans, are unable to convert n-6 PUFA to n-3 PUFA, the researchers incorporated the missing n-3 PUFA desaturase into a transgenic mouse called the FAT-1 mouse. The FAT-1 mouse is a mouse model now being used to study various diseases such as liver cancer and atherosclerotic lesions for beneficial effects of increased production of n-3 fatty acids. In the new study, the authors compared the protective effects of the increased n-3 PUFA in the FAT-1 mouse to the protective effects of DHA supplementation with dietary intake of DHA in non-transgene mice.

The results showed that, “the increase in brain DHA provided by FAT-1 was insufficient to induce a frank neuroprotective effect against MPTP neurotoxicity, in comparison to the effects reached with DHA dietary supplements.” “Nevertheless the strong correlations between nigral [area of brain most strongly affected by MPTP] constituents and DHA levels found in the present study reinforce the hypothesis that n-3 PUFAs are beneficial against MPTP-induced denervation. They also support the implication of n-3 PUFAs in reducing inflammatory processes. Overall, the present data combined with our previous work strongly suggest that dietary intervention with preformed DHA [as found in diet or dietary supplements] constitutes a potent method to achieve neuroprotective levels in the brain, particularly in the context of PD [Parkinson’s disease].”

We take 9 capsules a day (Durk) or 8 capsules a day (Sandy) of our high-potency omega-3 formulation for our hearts and minds, which provides about 2 grams a day of DHA. We recommend 1 gram of DHA per day for most people.


  1. Bousquet et al. Transgenic conversion of omega-6 into omega-3 fatty acids in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. J Lipid Res 52:263-71 (2011).

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