A diet rich in fish consumption and supplemented with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is linked to a reduction of 45 percent in the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a study shows.
The results confirming previous research will be shared April 26 at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, in a presentation titled “Fish, Fatty Acid Biosynthesis Genes, and Multiple Sclerosis Susceptibility.”
A fish-rich diet has been associated with a lower risk of MS. Fish are the best source of omega-3 PUFAs, commonly called fish oils; but it remains unclear if PUFAs are the reason for a lower MS risk, or if it’s another type of nutrient.
Also, genetic variations in the nucleotides (building blocks) of the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene – leading to changes in fatty acid levels – have been linked with cognition, cardiovascular disease and inflammation. However, “whether they are associated with MS is unknown,” researchers wrote.
The team tackled these questions and examined how fish consumption affected the risk of MS in 1,153 participants of the MS Sunshine Study, a multi-ethnic study investigating the incidence of MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).
In the study, high fish intake was defined as consuming fish at least once a week, or one to three servings per month combined with fish oil supplements.
The analysis was adjusted for participants’ age, sex, smoking habits, as well as genetic ancestry.
Results showed that high fish intake was associated with a 45 percent reduced risk of MS or CIS compared with subjects with a poor fish consumption – less than one fish meal per month – and no fish oil supplements.
Researchers also analyzed variations in certain nucleotides, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, in three genes linked to fatty acid production — FADS1, FADS2 and ELOV2.
Two genetic variations in the FADS2 gene (rs174611 and rs174618) were independently associated with a lower risk of MS, even after accounting for high fish intake.
Overall, “these analyses support a protective role of fish consumption and PUFA biosynthesis on MS risk. These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may play an important role in reducing MS risk,” researchers wrote.
“Future studies to replicate our findings and determine whether this is mediated by the anti-inflammatory, metabolic and/or neurological functions of PUFAs are needed,” they added.