Clinical benefits of NeuroSpark adjunctive therapy
NeuroSpark® can be recommended as adjunctive treatment for residual symptoms of anxiety, depression, poor memory and foggy thinking, low energy, poor sleep in a range of mild to moderate psychiatric diagnoses, particularly those with co-morbid anxiety. In a recent 8 week low-dose open label clinical trial among treatment-resistant depressed patients Smith D et al 2017 reported significant improvements in Hamilton Depression Rating scores (HAM-D) with a reduction from 20.0 to 9.6 (p<0.001) and 46% remission rates (HAM-D ≤ 7)1. In addition Clinical Global Impression Severity Scale (CGI-S) and HAM-D middle insomnia reduced significantly (both p<0.05). Prior to the trial all patients were on either stable antidepressant or psychological therapy but had demonstrated inadequate response1.
For patients who are intolerant or resistant to medication, NeuroSpark® may provide an effective addition to treatment regimes.
Minimally-processed natural omega-3 DHA source
NeuroSpark® provides omega-3 docosahaexionic acid (DHA), the longest and the most unsaturated chain fatty acid in the body, with 26 carbons and 6 double bonds in the chain (DHA 22:6 (n-3). The oil is from tuna sourced from the unpolluted southern Pacific Ocean and has the highest naturally occurring levels of omega-3 DHA. The oil is minimally processed so retains the original triglyceride structure and bioavailability to the body and brain, and is tested to ensure heavy metals e.g. mercury, man-made PCB’s or other contaminants are not present.
NeuroSpark® is a totally natural source of omega-3 triglycerides, it has not been reconstituted through molecular-distillation to achieve a high omega-3 concentration. Omega-3 DHA is not an individual molecule rather a fatty acid chain as part of a triglyceride, therefore altering the omega-3 DHA concentration alters triglyceride structures and we believe this may change bioavailability to the brain.
Recommended average daily dosage is 2 capsules providing 260mg omega-3 DHA (W.H.O. guidelines are 200- 500mg omega-3)2. This low dosage is recommended and was found effective in the Smith trial1. However in clinical practice individual optimization may require up to 4 capsules (520mg omega-3 DHA) per day, especially in supporting mood disorders.
Higher concentration of DHA in brain than blood
All omega-3 products increase the level of omega-3 in the blood. However the blood brain barrier does not respond to simple gradient diffusion, crossing the blood brain barrier changes the concentration of fatty acids and omega-3 DHA is six(6) times more concentrated in the brain.
Omega-3 DHA is used as a structural fatty acid and not as a source of energy in the brain. The brain areas of greatest metabolic activity, the mitochondria, synaptic junctions and inner cell membranes, have the highest concentrations of omega-3 DHA where it is involved in many cellular functions.
DHA’s role includes anti-inflammatory actions
Omega-3 DHA is the only omega-3 retained by the brain and comprises 25% of the neural membrane fatty acid structure, in particular the inner membranes, where it has a vital role in normal brain functioning, learning, visual acuity and general health. The beneficial effects of omega-3 DHA may be mediated through enhanced neurogenesis, synaptogenisis and monoamine transmission, modulated neurotransmission via improved cellular fluidity, and anti-oxidant reduction of inflammatory cytokines3,4. Animal studies have identified omega-3 DHA as having a beneficial effect on mood in a manner similar to mood stabilizers. All have a common pathway in reducing the pro-inflammatory omega-6 arachidonic acid in neurotransmitter signaling5.
High DHA plus Vitamin B significantly reduced cognitive decline.
Clinical observational studies have found higher levels of omega-3 in the blood associated with lower depression and bipolar disorder rates and lower cognitive impairment6. A study of people with mild cognitive impairment, for those with high baseline plasma omega-3 DHA plus B vitamins had significant prevention of cognitive decline compared with placebo; whereas for those with low omega-3 DHA in the plasma the B vitamins offered no benefit. Baseline EPA level did not correlate with a significant prevention of cognitive decline7.
Reviews of clinical trials supplementing with omega-3 products show variability of results is characterised by the heterogeneity of the clinical studies in relation to diagnoses and trial populations, measurement scales, omega-3 content and type of preparation, length of supplementation8. While an overall positive effect was measured the heterogeneity limits the strength of evidence. Bionutrients will only comment on clinical trials using NeuroSpark® e.g. Smith D trial1, and on observational studies (no supplementation) and not clinical trials using other products.
- Smith DJ et al, Adjunctive low-dose docasahexaenoic acid (DHA) for major depression: An open-label pilot trial. Nutritional Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1283128
- World Health Organisation, Nutrition, Population nutrient intake goals for preventing diet-related chronic diseases. [Internet] [cited 2016 Nov 17].
- Orr SK, Bazinet RP. The emerging role of docosahexaenoic acid in neuroinflammation. Curr Opin Investig Drugs [Internet]. 2008 Jul;9(7):735–43.
- Chang C-Y, et al. Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan 2009 Dec;18(4):231–4
- Rao JS, et al. Mode of action of mood stabilizers: is the arachidonic acid cascade a common target?2008 Molecular Psychiatry (2008) 13, 585–596
- Liu JJ et al Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Status in Major Depression with Comorbid Anxiety Disorders J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 July ; 74(7): 732–738
- Oulhaj A et al, Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status Enhances the Prevention of Cognitive Decline by B Vitamins in Mild Cognitive Impairment 2015;50(2):547-57
- Mocking RJT et al. Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder. Transl Psychiatry (2016) 6, e756
Wider research findings
DHA’s positive role in a wide range of health issues is regularly reported in scientific journals. Research includes physiological and animal studies:
‘DHA deficiency is associated with normal ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, hyperactivity, schizophrenia and peroxisomal disorders. A deficiency of DHA markedly affects neuro-transmission, membrane-bound enzyme and ion-channel activities, gene expression, intensity of inflammation, immunity and synaptic plasticity’ Horrocks LA et al 2004 Prost L EFA’s 70; 4 pp361-72
Levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain, can be directly related to DHA levels. Delion S et al 1996 J Neuroch 66 pp1582-91, Zimmer L et al 2002 AJCN 2002 75; 4 pp662-7
‘DHA is at highest concentration in cells and tissues associated with high energy consumption and one of its roles is likely to be central to oxidative respiration.’ Brenna JT and Diau G-Y 2007 Prost Leuk Ess FA’s 77(5-6) 247-50
- Memory defects:
DHA shows neuro-protective effects including protection from amyloid-beta plaques, neuronal apoptosis and protection from memory deficits in animal studies. Florent S 2005 J Neuroch 96 pp385-95
Low consumption levels of DHA and low levels of DHA in the blood plasma are linked to depression. Hibblen J 1998 Lancet 531 p54 Brain Function: ‘DHA is essential to neurological function. It is remarkable that one simple molecule has been reported to affect so many seemingly unrelated biological processes. DHA must be acting at a fundamental level common to many tissues’ Stillwell W et al 2003 Chem Phy Lipids 126; 1 pp1-27