Perilla seed oil safe for dementia patients…but uncertainty around possible benefits

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

Perilla seed oil contains a high amount of anti-oxidative substances, such as omega-3 fatty acids. ©Getty Images
Perilla seed oil contains a high amount of anti-oxidative substances, such as omega-3 fatty acids. ©Getty Images
Perilla seed oil is safe as an addition to treatment for sufferers of mild to moderate dementia, but its efficacy — particularly as an antioxidant — requires further study.

That was the key finding of a study by Thailand's Chulabhron International College of Medicine and  Thammasat University.

With oxidative stress playing a major role in neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, the researchers sought to test the efficacy of perilla seed oil (which contains a high amount of anti-oxidative substances, such as omega-3 fatty acids) on individuals with mild to moderate dementia.

Preclinical studies conducted on guinea pigs had shown perilla seed oil to have neuroprotective effects against dementia, and the researchers aim was to prove the feasibility and safety of perilla seed oil as an additional anti-oxidative therapeutic treatment for dementia patients. 

Oils and antioxidants

They recruited 239 patients with mild to moderate dementia for a single-centred, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, and gave each patient either two capsules containing 500mg of perilla seed oil, or two capsules containing 500mg of olive oil four times a day. 

These capsules were administered in addition to conventional standard dementia treatment for six months, and the researchers measured clinical side effects and routine laboratory results at baseline and post-treatment.

They then reported that nausea and vomiting were the most common side effects among patients in both the intervention and placebo groups, with 3% in each group experiencing these side effects.

At the same time, three patients in the placebo group prematurely discontinued their treatment, while one in the intervention group did so.

However, the researchers also reported that "about 5% (57) of the patients in both groups could not comply with the regimen of the treatment"​, meaning they were also unable to complete the study.

Among the remaining patients who did complete the study, the routine laboratory test results — including kidney function tests, complete blood counts, and liver function panels both at baseline and post-treatment — were found to be "not significantly different" ​between both groups.

Safe but not effective?

The researchers wrote: "Neuroprotective therapy is lacking in the present formula of conventional treatment for patients with mild to moderate dementia.

"Therefore, add-on treatment with neuroprotective therapy should provide some benefits. However, a clinical study is needed to demonstrate the exact benefits in humans."

Indeed, while previous studies have discussed omega-3 fatty acids' supposed multiple cognitive and behavioural health benefits, such as against ADHD​, intelligence in infants​, aggression​ and even autism​, the results so far have been largely contradictory.

The researchers behind the current study concluded: "Perilla seed oil was feasible and safe to add on to standard treatment in patients with mild to moderate dementia. Further study is needed to confirm its benefit to use as additional anti-oxidative therapy in patients with dementia."

Source: Journal of Ageing Research

"Feasibility and Safety of Perilla Seed Oil as an Additional Antioxidative Therapy in Patients with Mild to Moderate Dementia"

Authors: Chuntida Kamalashiran, et al.

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