Japan – Scientists are increasingly appreciating oestrogen’s role in brain health. Now for the first-time, production of oestrogen in the brain has been directly linked to the amount of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
DHA is abundant in fish oils and synthesised from alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in some cooking oils. Assistant Professor Yasuhiro Ishihara, Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, keenly aware of both the growing understanding of oestrogen as a neuroprotectant and also DHA’s ability to reduce epileptic seizures, wanted to determine if there was any link between the two.
Dietary supplementation with DHA for a month to weanling mice increased the expression of cytochrome P450 aromatase, an oestrogen-synthesising enzyme and oestrogen amounts in the cerebral cortex. Also, DHA largely prolonged the latency of seizure induced by pentylenetetrazole. Of note, an inhibitor of cytochrome P450 aromatase, letrozole, reduced 17β-estradiol levels and did completely suppress the elongation of seizure latency elicited by DHA, thus confirming oestrogen’s importance in preventing seizures.
This is the first time that oestrogen, synthesised by dietary intake of DHA has been shown to be important to the prevention of seizures. It is expected that these findings will contribute to the development of medication for epileptic seizures, as well as furthering our understanding of the relationship between lipid intake and brain health. Due to a lack of high DHA yielding fish oil in many Western diets it should also be of interest to dieticians there, and influence the development of future brain boosting supplements.