- Consuming fish at least once a week or 1 to 3 times per month reduces multiple sclerosis (MS)
- High fish intake reduces the risk of MS or clinically isolated syndrome
- Salmon, sardines, albacore, tuna and lake trout are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Consuming fish at least once a week or 1 to 3 times per month in addition to taking fish oil supplements on a daily basis can reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The preliminary study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th Annual Meeting, Los Angeles.
‘Two of 13 genetic variations in a human gene cluster that regulates fatty acid levels can lower the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).’
The findings of this study reveal that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish help lower the risk of developing MS.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects nerves and can leave the affected patient completely disabled.
MS has an autoimmune origin, i.e., the body begins attacking its nerve fibers called myelin, the fatty white substance that insulates and protects the nerves, which disrupts the signals between the brain and the rest of the body leading to 'sclerosis.'
The affected nerve fibers cannot convey signals to and from the brain resulting in loss of sensation, weakness, inability to walk, see or balance oneself, depending on the particular nerve affected by sclerosis.
The first episode of MS symptoms last for at least 24 hours, which is clinically known as an isolated syndrome and there is no cure for MS.
"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," said study author Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, Calif., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Intake of Omega-3 fatty Acid
In this study, the research team examined the dietary pattern of about 1,153 people with an average age of 36 who were from various backgrounds.
Among these participants, about half of them were diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome.
The participants were asked about their consumption of fish and how much they ate regularly.
High fish intake
is either eating one serving of fish per week or eating 1 to 3 servings per month, apart from taking daily fish oil supplements.
is less than one serving of fish per month and no fish oil supplements.
The types of fish consumed by participants include shrimp, salmon, and tuna.
Can High Fish Intake Lower Multiple Sclerosis?
The results of this study revealed that high fish intake reduced the risk of MS or clinically isolated syndrome by 45 percent than those who ate fish less than once a month or who did not take fish oil supplements.
Around 180 participants with MS had high fish intake when compared to 251 participants of the healthy controls.
The research team also looked at 13 genetic variations in a human gene cluster that regulates fatty acid levels and found two of them linked to lower the risk of MS, even after accounting for the higher fish intake, which means that some can have a genetic advantage while regulating fatty acid levels.
Fish such as salmon, sardines, albacore, tuna and lake trout are recommended as good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Need for further Research
Langer-Gould emphasizes that the study shows how omega-3 fatty acids are processed by the body and its association with reducing MS risk. However, it merely shows an association and not cause and effect.
The diagnosis is made with the help of a typical history, neurological examination and an MRI scan which will show the extent and area of sclerosis.
Treatment for multiple sclerosis consists of medicines to modify the course of the disease, drugs to relieve symptoms, and physical therapy to cope with disability caused by the disease.
Further research is needed to confirm these findings and to examine how omega-3 fatty acids affect inflammation, metabolism and nerve function.