A new Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-led study suggests that patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may benefit from taking omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a nutrient found in flaxseeds, walnuts, chia, canola, and soybean oils. Neurology will publish the study on June 21, 2023.
“Our group’s previous research has shown that a diet high in ALA and higher levels of this fatty acid in the blood may reduce the risk of developing ALS.” According to lead author Kjetil Bjornevik, an assistant professor of epidemiology and nutrition, “we found that among people living with ALS, higher blood levels of ALA were also associated with a slower disease progression and a lower risk of death within the study period.” Together with our previous research, these results suggest that this fatty acid may have neuroprotective properties that could be beneficial to ALS patients.”
449 people with ALS who participated in a clinical trial were the subject of the study. In this trial, they were tested on the severity of their symptoms and the progression of their disease, and their scores ranged from 0 to 40. Higher scores indicated less severe symptoms. The researchers divided the participants into four groups based on their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, from those with the highest to lowest levels. According to the clinical trial, they then followed up 18 months later to monitor the groups’ physical functionality and survival.
They found that ALA showed the most advantages of all the omega-3 unsaturated fats, as it was generally firmly connected to more slow downfall and diminished hazard of death. 33% and 19% of the 126 participants who passed away within the first 18 months of the study were in the group with the lowest ALA levels, respectively. The researchers found that participants with the highest levels of ALA had a 50% lower risk of death during the study period than participants with the lowest levels of ALA after making adjustments for age, sex, ethnicity, BMI, duration of symptoms, and a family history of ALS.
During the course of the study, a reduction in the risk of death was also linked to two additional fatty acids: linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, and eicosapentaenoic acid, an additional omega-3 fatty acid found in fatty fish and fish oil.
Professor of epidemiology and nutrition and senior author Alberto Ascherio said, “The link our study found between diet and ALS is intriguing.” We are currently contacting clinical researchers to promote a randomized trial to see if ALA is beneficial to ALS patients. Since ALA is not a drug that can be patented, getting funding will be difficult, but we hope to complete the project.
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