- Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have a variety of health benefits.
- Harvard University researchers have now found that people with ALS who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may have slower physical decline and an extended survival rate.
- The scientists also found that the omega-6 fatty acid was associated with a lower risk of death among study participants.
For many years, research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids have a variety of health benefits.
Previous studies show that these healthy fats found in seafood and some plants could help protect against
Now, Harvard University researchers have found that people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable progressive neurological disease who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may have slower physical decline and survival rate prolonged.
The researchers also found that omega-6 fatty acid consumption was also associated with a lower risk of death among study participants.
This study was recently published in Neurologythe medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a disease that affects the body’s central nervous system, primarily the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Because ALS affects the neurons needed for movement, over time a person loses the ability to control movements in their legs, arms and face. In extreme cases, people with ALS may eventually be unable to speak or eat.
According to the ALS Association, [w]With a population of 100,000 people, there are two new cases of ALS every year.
Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70 and it is more common in men.
Symptoms of ALS include:
Researchers still don’t know exactly what causes ALS, but they believe it
There is currently no cure for ALS. Some
The average life expectancy for someone with ALS is often between 2 and 5 years, with some people living longer.
According to Dr. Kjetil Bjornevik, assistant professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University and lead author of this study, he and his research team set out to study the link between diet and ALS. just as they were interested in identifying modifiable risk factors for neurological disorders, such as dietary factors.
We were therefore interested in examining whether a diet high in these fatty acids is also associated with slower disease progression in individuals already diagnosed with ALS, he added.
This isn’t the first time researchers have looked at the effect of essential fatty acids on ALS. A
In this study, Dr. Bjornevik and his team recruited 449 people with ALS with an average age of 58. Study participants were followed up for 18 months. During that time, 126 or 28% of participants died.
The researchers looked at the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in each participant’s blood. And all participants received scores on 12 physical functions including swallowing, chewing and speaking between zero and 48, with higher scores equating to greater functionality.
After the analysis, the scientists found that the participants with the highest amounts of the type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid had an average score of 38.3 at the start of the study. Those with the lowest amount had an average score of 37.6.
Additionally, the research team found that only 21 of the 126 deaths occurred in the group with the most alpha-linolenic acid in their system, compared to 37 deaths that occurred in the group with the fewest omega-3 fatty acids.
After adjusting for age, gender, and ethnicity, Dr. Bjornevik and his team reported that study participants with the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid had a 50 percent lower risk of death during the study, compared with those in the group with the lowest amount.
Our findings suggest that specific omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid, may exert a favorable effect on people with ALS, said Dr. Bjornevik.
Also during the study, the research team correlated an omega-6 fatty acid called
Linoleic acid, the omega-6 fatty acid associated with a lower risk of death in our study, is also an essential fatty acid that can only be obtained through diet, explained Dr. Bjornevik.
However, whether and how this fatty acid has beneficial effects in people with ALS is less clear. Our article focused primarily on omega-3 fatty acids, as our previous studies have found that these fatty acids are associated with a reduced risk of developing ALS, the researcher noted.
MNT extension he also spoke with Dr. Stephen Johnson, a neuromuscular disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic, about this study.
I am always hopeful for the next breakthrough that could slow, halt or even reverse the disease progression of ALS, so I read the article with great interest and cautious optimism, he commented.
The study findings are intriguing and pave the way for further studies, which must take place to more definitively answer the question: Do certain fatty acids slow ALS disease progression and prolong life? Right now, we have an association, and we therefore need to do our due diligence to better establish whether this association is reproducible in the context of more rigorous scientific study.
Dr Stephen Johnson
For next steps in this research, Dr. Johnson said he would like to see a large prospective Phase 2/3, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study evaluating the identified potentially beneficial fatty acids.
This study should, in addition to measuring participants’ longevity and function, pay close attention to participants’ diet, medications/supplements, and any potential confounders, he continued. However, a phase 1 clinical trial will likely need to take place first.
By taking these next steps, just as we would with any pharmaceutical drug, we can determine whether the association is more than just an association and whether certain fatty acid dietary supplements should be added to the standard of care for people with ALS, Dr. Johnson added. .
Omega-3 and omega-6 are two categories of essential fatty acids.
As the name suggests, essential fatty acids are required for the body to function properly. However, the body cannot produce essential fatty acids, making it necessary to obtain them from food.
The body uses essential fatty acids to:
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
And the foods to get omega-6 fatty acids are:
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