The APOE Gene And DHA Requirements | Nutrition Genome

Do you take fish oil? Did you know that your APOE genotype may determine the response to DHA supplementation?

Dr. Rhonda Patrick published a study with a hypothesis on why APOE-e4 carriers respond well to the DHA present in fish and fish roe but do not respond as well to dietary supplements, including fish and algal oils.

APOE and DHA in Phospholipid Form

Fish contains DHA in phospholipid form, whereas fish oil supplements do not. This influences whether DHA is metabolized to nonesterified DHA (free DHA) or a phospholipid form called lysophosphatidylcholine DHA (DHA-lysoPC).

Fish, fish roe, and krill oil have phosphatidylcholine with DHA. More DHA is delivered to the brain when consumed in phospholipid form than when consumed in the triglyceride form. Animal studies demonstrate that DHA-lysoPC accumulates 10-fold higher in the brain.

APOE-e4 carriers appear to have impaired brain transport of free DHA but not of DHA-lysoPC, putting them at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Increasing dietary sources of DHA in phospholipid form may provide a means to increase plasma levels of DHA-lysoPC and therefore reduce the risk in APOE-e4 carriers.


If you have APOE-e4, consume a low seafood diet, are vegan or vegetarian, are using non-phospholipid fish oil, and have variants in FADS2 omega-3 genes, you are very likely not getting sufficient DHA for cognitive health.

Get APOE tested with Nutrition Genome, and find out if you are a “hunter-gatherer” with the e4 allele. You may require a higher intake of DHA in phospholipid form to get the most benefit.

To read more about APOE, check out our articles:
How the APOE gene Affects the Immune System
Should You Drink Alcohol with APOE4?
Podcast: APOE4 and How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
The Most Effective Strategies for Alzheimer’s Disease

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