Many studies suggest that certain dietary interventions may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) or improve symptoms. The Mediterranean diet in particular has garnered significant attention for MS. The diet, which is rich in fish and vegetables, has been shown to reduce inflammation in patients with MS.
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Novel study findings suggest that eating fish 1 to 3 times per month plus daily fish oil supplements may reduce MS risk. These results suggest that omega-3 fatty acids could lower the risk of developing MS, according to a press release.
The preliminary study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in April.
“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.
Included in the study were 1153 individuals of varying backgrounds who were an average age of 36. Approximately half of the patients were diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (ICS).
Data about diet and fish intake were gathered for each participant. The researchers characterized high fish intake as eating 1 serving of fish per week or 1 to 3 servings per month plus taking daily fish oil supplements, according to the release. Low fish intake was characterized as eating less than 1 serving of fish per month and no supplements.
A total of 180 patients with MS and 251 healthy controls were found to have high fish intake, including consumption of shrimp, salmon, and tuna.
The authors discovered that patients with high fish consumption had a 45% reduced risk of MS or ICS compared with those who had low fish intake, according to the release.
The researchers also examined 13 variations in the human gene cluster that regulates fatty acids and discovered 2 that may lower MS risk, according to the study. These genes were found to reduce the risk of MS even after accounting for increased fish intake.
This finding may indicate that some individuals have an advantage in processing fatty acids, which could also modulate MS risk, according to the release.
Although the study findings suggest omega-3s are possibly involved with MS, the authors caution that it does not demonstrate a cause and effect relationship, but rather an association.
Additional studies are needed to confirm the results and determine how omega-3 fatty acids could impact inflammation, metabolism, and nerve function, which are all important factors for MS, according to the release.