DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is probably the most important of the omega 3 fatty acids for Huntington's. Recent research shows that EPA, (eicosapentaenoate), and GLA (gamma linoleic acid) are probably far inferior. Most products supplying DHA will also contain EPA and are obtained from purified fish oil. GLA is the omega-3 found in flax oil. This product should not be used as source of DHA.

Rationale for Use in Huntington's: Early studies of mice that used combinations of omega 3's showed motor benefit [Clifford JJ 2002]. Later studies of pure EPA were less successful [Van Raamsdonk JM 2005]. First human studies using combinations of EPA, DHA, and GLA gave positive results [Vaddadi KS 2002]. Miraxion, a pure EPA product failed in TREND-HD human trials. This may have been due to inadequate conversion of EPA to DHA [Arterburn LM 2006].

Dosage: Ongoing Alzheimer Consortium Trials are using 2 grams (1 gram twice a day) of pure DHA. Obtaining this dosage from available supplements (that contain both EPA and DHA) will likely cause stomach side effects. My advise is to slowly increase to a dosage that does not give side effects.

Side Effects: Side effects include abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and easy bruising. High doses of omega-3 increase effects of blood thinners.

Sources: Use either the prescription drug or supplements approved by USP (U.S. Pharmacia) CL (Consumer Lab) or Covance. Other products may contain high levels of mercury and other toxins from the fish used in preparation of the product. Almost all of these products are obtained from fish oil that contains both DHA and EPA. Choose products that have highest DHA because those with high EPA to DHA ratios are likely to cause many more side effects.

  • Omacor Available by prescription. This is an FDA approved drug for treating high triglycerides. Each tab contains 375 mg DHA and 465 of EPA; 5 tablets provide almost 2 gm/day of DHA at a cost of $150 per month. It is unlikely that insurers will cover more than 2 tablets per day.
  • OmegaLife-3 Available online. Ordering from this source supports Huntington's research and care initiatives through the St. Louis Huntington's Disease Foundation. This product has passed quality and purity tests at Covance, a trusted laboratory. Each tablet contains 400 mg of DHA and 800 mg of EPA. Though only 5 tablets are needed for the 2 gram per day dose of DHA, the higher EPA dosage in this product compared to Omacor will likely increase stomach side effects. The cost of 5 tablets per day is about $40 per month.

References

Clifford JJ, Drago J, Natoli AL, Wong JY, Kinsella A, Waddington JL, Vaddadi KS. Essential fatty acids given from conception prevent topographies of motor deficit in a transgenic model of Huntington's disease. Neuroscience. 2002;109(1):81-8. PubMed abstract

Van Raamsdonk JM, Pearson J, Rogers DA, Lu G, Barakauskas VE, Barr AM, Honer WG, Hayden MR, Leavitt BR. Ethyl-EPA treatment improves motor dysfunction, but not neurodegeneration in the YAC128 mouse model of Huntington disease. Exp Neurol. 2005 Dec;196(2):266-72. Epub 2005 Aug 29. PubMed abstract

Vaddadi KS, Soosai E, Chiu E, Dingjan P. A randomised, placebo-controlled, double blind study of treatment of Huntington's disease with unsaturated fatty acids. Neuroreport. 2002 Jan 21;13(1):29-33. PubMed abstract

Arterburn LM, Hall EB, Oken H. Distribution, interconversion, and dose response of n-3 fatty acids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6 Suppl):1467S-1476S. PubMed abstract