Multiple Sclerosis :: Fish oil might help multiple sclerosis patients

Multiple sclerosis – MS – is a disease found in one in 700 Americans. It affects women more often than men, and generally begins to show signs between ages 20-40.

While the cause is unknown, many physicians believe it is the result of damage around nerve cells. Inflammation destroys the myelin sheath which covers the nerve cells, and leads to multiple areas of sclerosis (scar tissue).

Health care practitioners often recommend eating fish at least twice per week because fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are known to affect key blood proteins (matrix metalloproteinase-9; MMP-9) and are produced by the immune cells of individuals with MS. A new study evaluating the effects of omega-3 on MMP-9 in patients with MS suggests that the intake of fish oil, containing omega-3 fatty acids, may have potential benefit in MS by decreasing MMP-9 levels.

The study was conducted by L. Shinto, ND, MPH, S. Baldauf-Wagner, A. Strehlow, V. Yadav and D. Bourdette, all of the Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR; and G. Marracci of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Portland, OR. It is entitled, ?The Immunomodulatory Effects of Fish Oil in Multiple Sclerosis.? Dr. Shinto is presenting the team?s findings at the 22nd annual meting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP; The conference will be held at the Palm Springs Convention Center, Palm Springs, CA, August 22-25, 2007.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on ten patients with MS. Ten MS participants received 9.6 grams of fish oil/day in an open-label study. An in vitro study using immune cells from healthy subjects was also conducted simultaneously to evaluate concentration effects of EPA and DHA on MMP-9 levels and activity.

The researchers found there was a 58 percent decrease in MMP-9 levels secreted from immune cells of MS volunteers after three months of fish oil supplementation compared to baseline levels. At three months, both EPA and DHA levels were significantly increased in red blood cell membranes. The in vitro study showed a significant decrease in MMP-9 levels and activity for EPA and DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease both MMP-9 levels and activity and may act as immune-modulators that could benefit MS patients.

According to Dr. Shinto, the lead researcher, ?These findings confirm previous research findings that suggest the intake of fish oil, containing Omega-3 fatty acids could provide a measure of relief for those with MS, a disease that is progressive, debilitating, and without a cure.?

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