• New research has shown that eating fish at least once a week or one to three times per month, in addition to taking daily fish oil supplements, may lower the risk of developing MS
  • The findings suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may be associated with reducing the risk of developing MS
  • The research has been presented at the international annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology

A US study, presented at this year’s American Academy of Neurology annual conference, has shown that eating more fish may reduce the risk of developing MS.

The role of diet and lifestyle in MS is a subject of great interest to people with MS along with the MS research community, since lifestyle changes are relatively easy to make and have been found to be beneficial.

Previous research has shown that polyunsaturated fatty acids and, in particular, omega 3 found in fish and seafood may be beneficial in MS, although more research is needed.

A new study undertaken by Dr Annette Langer-Gould from the Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, adds to this field of research by focusing on fish consumption and fish oil supplement use. The study surveyed 1,153 people about the amount of fish they regularly consume and whether they took fish oil supplements. Participants were classified as either ‘high intake’ or ‘low intake’, according to how much fish they consumed. Those in the high intake category ate one serving of fish per week or one to three servings per month, in addition to taking daily fish oil supplements. People in the ‘low intake’ category had less than one serving of fish per month and no fish oil supplements.

Responses from people with MS or CIS (clinically isolated syndrome – a precursor of MS) were then compared to the responses from people who did not have MS. 180 people with MS fell into the high intake category, compared to 251 people without MS. This translates to a 45% reduction in the risk of developing MS for people who ate more fish and fish oil supplements.

While this is an excellent result, the scientists stressed that this is an association study: research that shows that two factors are linked, but cannot demonstrate cause and effect.

The second part of the study focused on the genetics of participants. The researchers examined 13 differences in the genes that regulate the way the body deals with fatty acids. They identified that two of these genetic changes were linked to a decreased risk of developing MS – independent of the amount of fish in a person’s diet. This suggests that both our diet and our genetic make-up may influence our risk of developing MS.

Research into diet and lifestyle can be difficult, since it is hard to separate the many different components of diet and the effects of other lifestyle factors at any given point in a person’s life. However, a healthy diet which contains high levels of fresh foods, a wide range of essential nutrients and avoids too much processed food, is important for the wellbeing of people both with and without MS. This study adds further weight to the suggestion that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular may be beneficial to people at risk of developing MS.

‘This study provides more evidence that a diet rich in fish and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids has health benefits’, commented Dr Langer-Gould. ‘In addition to promoting improved cardiovascular health, a high-fish or seafood diet may also reduce the risk of developing MS.’

With thanks to MS Research Australia – the lead provider of research summaries on our website.

Page Tags: