We have all heard the old wives’ tale that fish acts as brain food, but a new study has proved there is some truth to the story, linking the seafood to a reduced risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).
Eating fish at least once a week or eating fish one to three times per month in addition to taking daily fish oil supplements may be associated with a reduced risk of MS, according to a study presented to the American Academy of Neurology.
The findings suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may be associated with lowering the risk of developing MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that affects communication between the brain and other parts of the body.
With MS, the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the fatty white substance that insulates and protects the nerves. This disrupts the signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
Symptoms of MS may include fatigue, numbness, tingling or difficulty walking. There is currently no cure for MS.
“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, regularly eating fish and taking fish oil supplements, could reduce the risk of MS,” said study author Dr Annette Langer-Gould.
For this study, researchers examined the diets of 1153 people with an average age of 36 from a variety of backgrounds, about half of whom had been diagnosed with MS.
Participants were asked about how much fish they regularly ate. 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 study participants included shrimp, salmon and tuna.
The study found that high fish intake was associated with a 45 per cent reduced risk of MS when compared with those who ate fish less than once a month and did not take fish oil supplements. 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, Dr Langer-Gould emphasises that it simply shows an association and not cause and effect.
More research is needed to confirm the findings and to examine how omega-3 fatty acids may affect inflammation, metabolism and nerve function.
How much fish do you eat during an average month? Do you take fish oil supplements? Would you consider it now?