A diet rich in omega-3 fats lowers the risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, say researchers at Harvard School of Public Health. A longitudinal analysis of 1,002,082 men and women compared ALS risk to dietary intakes. A total of 995 ALS cases were documented during the follow-up. Those people who included more omega-3s in their diets had a lower risk for ALS. In fact, those who ranked in the top 20% in terms of omega-3 intake cut their odds of developing ALS by a third compared to those in the bottom 20%. All three omega-3s, including DHA, EPA, and ALA, contributed to the lower risk. Intakes of other fats, such as the omega-6 fats in corn or safflower oil, were not associated with a lower risk for developing ALS.
In a second study from Harvard School of Public Health, fiber intake was not found to be a factor in ALS risk. Vegetarians and vegans have much lower blood levels of the two most important omega-3s, DHA and EPA. A study from the University of San Diego found that supplementing their diets with a vegetarian, algal-based omega-3 containing 254 milligrams DHA plus EPA for four months significantly improved circulating omega-3 levels.
In Perspective: Inflammation and oxidative stress are linked with ALS, which might explain at least one of the ways these healthy fats lower ALS risk. Also, it is important to note that this study did not look at whether or not omega-3s affected patients already burdened with the disease. Whether high intakes could help treat people with ALS isn’t known.
Fitzgerald K, O’Reilly E, Falcone G, et al: Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. JAMA Neurology 2014;July 14th.
Fondell E, O’Reilly E, Fitzgerald K, et al: Dietary fiber and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. American Journal of Epidemiology 2014;179:1442-1449.
Sarter B, Kelsey K, Schwartz T, et al: Blood docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans. Clinical Nutrition 2014; March 14th.