Willis, L.M., B. Shukitt-Hale, J.A. Joseph, 2009. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids improve cholinergic transmission in the aged brain. Genes Nutr. 4:309–314.
The cholinergic theory of aging states that dysfunction of cholinergic neurons arising from the basal forebrain and terminating in the cortex and hippocampus may be involved in the cognitive decline that occurs during aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Despite years of research, pharmacological interventions to treat or forestall the development of Alzheimer’s disease have primarily focused on enhancing cholinergic transmission, either through increasing acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis or inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme responsible for ACh hydrolysis. However, recent studies have indicated that dietary supplementation can impact the cholinergic system, particularly during aging. The purpose of the present review is to examine the relevant research suggesting that cholinergic functioning may be maintained during aging via consuming a diet containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The data reviewed herein indicate that, at least in animal studies, inclusion of PUFAs in the diet can improve cholinergic transmission in the brain, possibly leading to improvements in cognitive functioning.