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Omega acids could slow progress of ALS

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Omega-3 fatty acids could slow the progress of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a fatal neurodegenerative disease.

Eating foods that are rich in the acids—including walnuts, canola oil, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed oil—could also help the sufferer live longer, say researchers from Harvard University.

They monitored the impact of the acids on a group of 449 ALS sufferers over an 18-month period, during which time 126 of the participants died.  The level of omega-3 acids in the blood of participants was matched against the severity of disability, and those with the highest levels of alpha-linolenic acid—a form of omega-3—had milder ALS symptoms and fewer died during the study.

Overall, those with the highest levels of alpha-linolenic had a 50 percent lower risk of dying during the life of the study compared to those with the lowest levels.

Another type of omega-3—eicosapentaenoic acid, which is in fatty fish and fish supplements—also improved life expectancy during the study.  Omega-6, or linoleic acid, which is in vegetable oils, nuts, meats, seeds and eggs, also reduced mortality levels.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.  Sufferers lose control of movement and can eventually become paralysed.  The typical lifespan after diagnosis is between two and five years.

The researchers stress that they haven’t proven that omega acids slow the progress of ALS, but have merely shown a correlation between levels and progression of the disease.

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Neurology, 2023; doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000207485
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