Omega 3 Fatty Acids May Help Prevent or Slow ALS

Omega 3 Fatty Acids May Help Prevent or Slow ALS

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Title: Dietary ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake and Risk for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Author: Fitzgerald et al

Journal: JAMA Neurology

Objective: To examine the association between ω-6 and ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption and ALS risk.

Background

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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by rapidly progressive weakness due to muscle wasting. The nerves that supply all the muscles of the body die over time, leading to the rapid muscle wasting.

Initially, individuals lose strength in the arms and legs, however eventually the disease makes it difficult to speak, swallow and breath as those muscles become affected too. This disease is a very scary diagnosis as most individuals die within 3-4 years of being diagnosed. The average age of diagnosis is 60 and it’s relatively rare, affecting 2 people per 100,000 per year.

There is no cure for ALS. One drug, riluzole, has been shown to modestly prolong survival, but that’s it. Most treatment revolves around symptomatic care such as helping with nutrition and breathing when individuals are no longer able to do so themselves.

More and more research attention is being placed on ALS, which shot the spotlight recently with the ALS ice bucket challenge that took social media by storm in August, 2014.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are known to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are neuroprotective. The authors sought to assess the relationship between the incidence of ALS and omega 3- and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids by looking at dietary patterns.

Methods

This was a longitudinal study of over 1 million participants incorporating individuals from 5 different studies which are listed here.

  • the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study,
  • the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort,
  • the Health Professionals Follow-up Study,
  • the Multiethnic Cohort Study, and
  • the Nurses’ Health Study.

Diet was assessed via food surveys for each study.

The authors primary outcomes of interest were diagnosis or death from ALS

Results

A total of 995 ALS cases were documented during the follow-up.

Increased ω-3 PUFA intake was associated with a reduced risk for ALS.

  • There was as much as a 34% reduction in risk
  • This included both α-linolenic acid and marine ω-3 PUFA

Intakes of ω-6 PUFA were not associated with ALS risk.

Conclusions

Supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids may help prevent or delay the onset of ALS.

More research is required to assess whether it will help slow the progression of the disease in those that have been diagnosed.

Original Article

Fitzgerald, K. C., O’Reilly, É J., & Falcone, G. J. (2014). Dietary ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake and Risk for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. JAMA Neurology,71(9), 1102. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.1214

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