by Carissa Perez Olsen, PhD
We do not yet have a full understanding of the roll of plasmalogens in biology, but it is clear they are important for the ability of our cells to survive in stressful conditions, particularly when there are high levels of chemically reactive molecules that can damage cellular components. It is not yet known how plasmalogens exert these protective effects, but it is clear that when they are absent, the cells die more often.1,2 This cell-protection role suggests that replenishing decreased levels of them in patients would have a benefit.
Plasmalogens in MCI
Thus, restoring plasmalogen levels may be an important way to improve impaired cognitive function in MCI patients and, potentially, delay or prevent the onset of AD.
Dietary Supplements Improve Cognitive Function
The subjects received either 1 mg/day of plasmalogens purified from scallops or a placebo. In mild AD patients, measures of memory (WMS-R test) improved significantly in the treatment group among females and those younger than 77 years old. There was no statistically significant improvement in more advanced patients, suggesting that early intervention is critical.
Additionally, the supplementation of these lipids can be tailored to individuals by adjusting dosage according to body weight. There are no studies of how much plasmalogen supplementation would be needed for maximum benefit.
Sources of plasmalogens
Supplements available are derived from scallops and at similar concentrations as provided to the individuals in the study described above. It is important to note that they have not been specifically tested and are fairly expensive per dose . Also, studies have not yet determined if particular types of plasmalogens would have a greater benefit than others.
In summary, a decrease in plasmalogens may be a way to identify MCI before symptoms are noticeable. If the level is reduced, intervention can occur earlier to correct the deficit. Thus, there may be significant potential to make dietary changes to help people with MCI or mild AD improve their cognitive functions.
Increasing a patient’s intake of mussels, scallops, other types of seafood or by taking a daily plasmalogen supplement is a relatively simple way to get started.
There are even “scallop-derived” supplements already available on Amazon, at $85 to $90 for a month’s supply, but we have no experience with these, and we found no studies proving their efficacy.
2. Sindelar PJ, et al. The protective role of plasmalogens in iron-induced lipid peroxidation. Free Radic Biol Med. 1999;26(3-4):318-324. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(98)00221-4.
3. Wood PL, et al. Circulating plasmalogen levels and Alzheimer disease assessment scale-cognitive scores in Alzheimer patients. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2010;35(1):59-62. doi: 10.1503/jpn.090059.
4. Han X, et al. Plasmalogen deficiency in early Alzheimer’s disease subjects and in animal models: molecular characterization using electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. J Neurochem. 2001;77(4):1168-1180. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2001.00332.x.
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6. Hossain MS, et al. Oral ingestion of plasmalogens can attenuate the LPS-induced memory loss and microglial activation. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2018;496(4):1033-1039. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.01.078.
7. Fujino T, et al. Efficacy and blood plasmalogen changes by oral administration of plasmalogen in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. EBioMedicine. 2017;17:199-205. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.02.012.
8. Yamashita S, et al. Analysis of plasmalogen species in foodstuffs. Lipids. 2016;51(2):199-210. doi: 10.1007/s11745-015-4112-y.
Olsen CP. Cognitive health: high-plasmalogen diets and Alzheimer’s. Today’s Dietitian. 2019;21(10):12.
Su XQ, et al. Plasmalogens and Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Lipids Health Dis. 2019;18(1):100. doi:10.1186/s12944-019-1044-1.