Eating fish once a week may help to lower risks of developing multiple sclerosis, new research suggests.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially debilitating disease of the nervous system and neither a cause or a cure have been identified.
In MS, the body attacks the fatty protective sheaths around nerves, damaging them and impairing the brain’s communication with the rest of the body so that sufferers have spurts of time when they cannot walk or control their bodies- a state that becomes permanent for some.
Preliminary evidence from a Kaiser Permanente study suggests that people who ate fish regularly had a 45 percent lower risk of having MS, meaning that dietary changes could help to prevent the mysterious disease.
- People who had diets high in fish or fish oil were less likely to have multiple sclerosis, according to preliminary research
- Multiple sclerosis affects 400,000 people in the US
- The cause of MS are not known and there is no cure
- Symptoms like muscle weakness can become permanent, leaving some unable to walk for the rest of their lives
- The new study found a link between fish consumption and MS but the effects of the food on the disease are unknown
MS affects everyone with the disease differently. Some may only have one ‘attack,’ or episode, and the spectrum of symptoms range from tingling and fatigue to loss of vision, tremors, numbness or weakness.
Most people will develop recurring episodes, during which new symptoms can develop. These may last a period of days or weeks, and for between 60 and 70 percent of people with the disease, it will eventually progress to the point that the symptoms become permanent.
In light of recent research into the wide-ranging health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, decided to test the relationship between the nutritious oil and MS.
‘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 Dr Annette Langer-Gould of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
She and her team asked 1,153 people about what kinds of fish they ate and how often, and if they took fish oil supplements. Roughly half of the group had been diagnosed with a form of MS – either a first, isolated incident of symptoms, or a recurring form.
Those that consumed more fish or fish oil had a 45 percent lower risk of MS than the rest of the group.
The bar for ‘high fish intake’ was eating the seafood – especially salmon, sardines, albacore tuna and late trout – once a week or between once and three times a month while also taking daily fish oil supplements.
Of the MS group, 180 people had ‘high fish intakes,’ compared to 250 people in the group without MS.
The researchers also looked at 13 genetic factors that determine, in part, how the body processes and regulates levels of fatty acids.
They linked two of these genetic variations to lower risks of MS as well, regardless of their fish-intake, suggesting that some people’s bodies may naturally be better equipped to regulate fatty acid levels.
Other studies have also suggested that fatty acids from fish or fish oil may help to keep MS symptoms at bay and minimize relapses.
It is not entirely clear what gives the oils their protective powers, but some scientists hypothesize that their general anti-inflammatory effects are particularly good for MS sufferers, and that this good fat may help to shield and protect neurons.
The research suggests that a diet high in fish or fish oil might play a role in preventing and assuaging symptoms of MS, the study draws a connection, not a conclusion about the effects.