Consuming Fish and/or Omega-3 Fatty Acids 1-3 Times Per Week May Decrease Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

Friday, March 02, 2018

A preliminary study funded by the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shows that there is a correlation between consumption of fish and/or fish oil and reduced risk of having multiple sclerosis (MS).  The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, April 21 to 27, 2018.

The authors of the study asked 1,153 study participants about their intake of fish and defined high fish intake as eating 1 serving of fish per week or taking daily fish oil supplements while eating 1-3 servings of fish per week. Low fish intake was defined as eating less than 1 serving of fish per month. The average age of participants was 36 years and approximately 50% of participants had clinically diagnosed MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) (ie, an episode of neurologic symptoms lasting at least 24 hours and caused by inflammation or demyelination).

Low intake was defined as less than one serving of fish per month and no fish oil supplements.

Participants who had high fish intake (n = 431) were 45% less likely to have MS or CIS compared to participants with low fish intake (n =722). Study authors also examine patients’ genetic variations in a human gene cluster known to regulate fatty acid levels. Of the 13 variations examined, 2 were associated with a lower risk of MS even after accounting for high fish intake. This suggests that both overall levels and regulation of omega-3 fatty acid metabolism may impact the risk of developing MS. More research is needed to determine if this association has any causative implications for MS as well as what impact omega-3 fatty acids have on inflammation, metabolism, and nerve function.

Salmon, sardines, lake trout and albacore tuna are all recommended as good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD stated, "Consuming fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to have a variety of health benefits, so we wanted to see if this simple lifestyle modification, regularly eating fish and taking fish oil supplements, could reduce the risk of MS." 

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