Kaiser Pasadena Study Says Eating More Fish Helps Lessen MS Risk

Published : Monday, March 12, 2018 | 5:50 AM

Eating More Fish

Eating fish on a regular basis can help you sleep better, improve your memory and reduce depression, a study by a group of researchers Kaiser Pasadena recently showed.

Researchers discovered that eating fish at least once a week, or eating fish one to three times per month and taking daily fish oil supplements, may be associated with a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The researchers said people who ate fish regularly had a 45 percent lower risk of developing MS than folks who ate fish less than once a month and who didn’t take fish oil supplements.

The findings, to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles in April, suggest that the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may be associated with the lower risk for developing MS.

“Our study showed one more potential benefits of a seafood diet,” said Dr. Annette Langer-Gould of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, study author. She noted that eating fish regularly has already been linked to a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.

Langer-Gould is the regional lead for clinical and translation neuroscience for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

Multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system, disrupts the brain’s ability to communicate with other parts of the body, the researchers said. The patient’s immune system attacks myelin, the fatty white substance that insulates and protects the nerves. The process interferes with the signals being sent between the brain and the rest of the body.

Symptoms of MS may include fatigue, numbness, tingling, or difficulty walking. Currently, there is no cure.

“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 could reduce the risk of MS,” Langer-Gould said.

The study included more than 1,100 people from Southern California with an average age of 36. Half of the subjects had been diagnosed with early MS or with clinically isolated syndrome, one of first episodes of MS symptoms which lasts at least 24 hours.

The study also included an analysis of 13 genetic variations in a human gene cluster known to regulate fatty acid levels. Two of the 13 variations were linked to a lower risk of multiple sclerosis, no matter what the fish consumption was. This suggests that some people may have a genetic advantage in regulating fatty acid levels, the researchers said.

Participants were asked to report how much fish they regularly consumed. High fish intake was defined as either eating one serving of fish per week or eating one to three servings per month in addition to taking daily fish oil supplements. Low intake was defined as less than one serving of fish per month and no fish oil supplements. Examples of fish consumed by the participants include shrimp, salmon, and tuna.

A total of 180 of those with MS had high fish intake compared to 251 of the healthy controls.

While the study suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, and how they are processed by the body, may play an important role in reducing MS risk, Langer-Gould notes that the findings simply show an association, not cause and effect. More studies are needed to confirm the findings and to investigate how omega-3 fatty acids may affect inflammation, metabolism, and nerve function, she said.

Langer-Gould said the study didn’t look at people with more advanced disease, but since omega-3s are known to protect against cardiovascular disease and people with multiple sclerosis who also have cardiovascular disease are more likely to end up disabled, eating fish is not a bad idea.

She also pointed out that eating fish or seafood is better than getting omega-3s from a fish oil supplement.


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