Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system where one’s own immune system cells attack the myelin sheath which protects the nerves of the body. This can create unpredictable communication issues between the body and the brain.  Approximately 2.8 million people worldwide live with MS. 

In addition to prescribed therapeutics to slow disease progression and manage symptoms, diet has also demonstrated some clinical benefits, especially omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines; flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts; fish oil supplements)

Clinical Evidence

A systematic review of medical literature identified 7 high-quality studies of more than 240,000 patients and found the following:

  • MS patients who consumed omega-3 fatty acid fish (or 1–20 mL per day supplement) at least 3 times per week had lower levels of disability and higher quality of life. This had no impact on relapse rate, but patients who consumed both fish and flaxseed oils had little improvement
  • A study of 175,431 women from Nurses Health Studies were followed every 4 years, and those who consumed α-linolenic acid at the beginning had a lower risk of MS diagnoses
  • Consumption of 9.6 grams per day fish oil for 3 months decreased amounts of a protein called MMP-9 thought to drive MS disease by 58%
  • Consumption of 4 grams per day fish oil significantly increased proteins involved in antioxidant defence of the cell and reducing inflammation in MS

References

AlAmmar WA, Albeesh FH, Ibrahim LM, Algindan YY, Yamani LZ, Khattab RY. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil supplementation on multiple sclerosis: a systematic review. Nutritional neuroscience. 2021 Jul 3;24(7):569-79.

Mayo Clinic. Multiple Sclerosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269. Accessed 19 Dec 2023

Walton C, King R, Rechtman L, Kaye W, Leray E, Marrie RA, Robertson N, La Rocca N, Uitdehaag B, van Der Mei I, Wallin M. Rising prevalence of multiple sclerosis worldwide: Insights from the Atlas of MS. Multiple Sclerosis Journal. 2020 Dec;26(14):1816-21.