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Briefs (right)

Fish Oil Linked to Lower
Alzheimer’s Risk

By Nicholas Bakalar

A substance found in fish oil may be associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias, researchers reported Monday.

The scientists found that people with the highest blood levels of an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, were about half as likely to develop dementia as those with lower levels.

The substance is one of several omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fatty fish and, in small amounts, in some meats. It is also sold in fish oil or DHA supplements. The researchers looked for a reduced risk associated with seven other omega-3 fatty acids, but only DHA had any effect.

The study, in the November issue of The Archives of Neurology, used data from the Framingham Heart Study to follow 899 initially healthy participants, with a median age of 76, for an average of more than nine years.

The scientists assessed DHA and fish intake using a questionnaire and obtained complete dietary data on more than half the subjects. They took blood samples from all the participants to determine serum levels of fatty acids.

A Humble Clue to the Scrolls

By John Noble Wilford

Archaeologists, it seems, will dig anything, even latrines. Sometimes this uncovers the stuff of scholarly evidence.

Over a hill, a discreet distance from and out of sight of the ruins of Qumran, near the Dead Sea, a broad patch of soil appeared to be discolored. Two archaeological sleuths had reasons to suspect this might have been Qumran’s toilet. Soil samples yielded the desiccated eggs of human intestinal parasites.

The researchers said this could well be evidence supporting the controversial view that Qumran was occupied by an ascetic Jewish sect, the Essenes, and that they probably wrote the Dead Sea scrolls and hid them in nearby caves. The discovery of the scrolls, beginning in 1947, was a sensation, with the promise of yielding insights into Judaism and early Christianity.

The new findings were announced Monday by Dr. James D. Tabor, a biblical historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Joe E. Zias, a paleopathologist in Israel. In an interview, Tabor said the link between the latrine and the Essenes was intriguing, but not firm. Not enough organic material has been recovered for scientific dating tests. Qumran has been in ruins since A.D. 70.

Two of the scrolls refer to a requirement that latrines be “northwest of the city” and “not visible from the city.” The Qumran latrine, some 1,000 yards away, seemed to comply.