Under physiological conditions, neurons and glia are in a healthy, redox-balanced environment; when injury perturbs this equilibrium, a neuroinflammatory state is established by activated microglia that triggers pro-inflammatory responses and alters the oxidant/antioxidant balance, thus leading to neuronal loss and neurodegeneration. In neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis), the brain is in a constitutively self-sustaining cycle of inflammation and oxidative stress that prompts and amplifies brain damage. Nutritional approaches may contribute to restore the lost equilibrium, as an increasing amount of scientific data highlight the ability of specific nutrients to cross the blood-brain barrier, and to modulate inflammatory and oxidative pathways that account for neurodegeneration. Herein, we critically examine how essential lipids (including fatty acids, liposoluble vitamins and phytosterols) might contribute to accelerate or prevent the onset and progression of such pathologies. In particular, we highlight that experimental and clinical findings, although promising, are still inadequate to draw definitive conclusions. Therefore, more research is warranted in order to establish the real impact of lipid intake on brain health, especially when redox balance and inflammatory responses have been already compromised.
- Journal Article