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Sclerosis symptoms can be reduced with high doses of omega-3

Sclerosis symptoms can be reduced with high doses of omega-3Epidemiological studies have shown that relatively high doses of omega-3 fatty acids that are found in oily fish and fish oil supplements have a positive effect on neurodegenerative diseases such as sclerosis, but the underlying mechanisms are not known. A mouse study reveals that one particular omega-3 fatty acid is able to control the immune defense and regulate the inflammatory processes in the central nervous system.

Multiple sclerosis – or MS – is an autoimmune disease where the immune defense attacks the isolating myelin sheath that protects the nerve cells in the central nervous system. This disrupts the nerve signals and may lead to a host of different symptoms – including sensory disturbances, walking difficulty, and paralysis because the connection between the brain and muscles is disturbed . Symptoms like fatigue and speech difficulty may also occur, depending on which parts of the central nervous system are destroyed.
In most cases, sclerosis begins with so-called attacks that are followed by recovery. Over time, the condition typically develops into progressive multiple sclerosis and more severe symptoms. Although sclerosis may be caused by different factors, chronic inflammation in the central nervous system is believed to be the common thread in all cases.

How one particular omega-3 fatty acid inhibits inflammation in sclerosis

All cell membranes contain the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that control different biochemical processes. It is vital to have the right balance between the two types of fatty acids to control the different processes.
Studies have demonstrated that a diet with plenty of omega-3 is linked to a lower risk of developing sclerosis because the omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and neurological health benefits.
In an American study of mice with sclerosis, scientists have looked closer at how omega-3 inhibits inflammation. Via enzyme processes, omega-3 fatty acids are converted into different forms that have different functions. The scientists found that the form known as DHEA (docosahexaenoyl ethanolamide) reduces the T cells of the immune defense, thereby counteracting the inflammation seen in sclerosis. Humans make DHEA from the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that is found in oily fish and fish oil supplements.
DHEA also seems to regulate the immune defense by inhibiting a pro-inflammatory cytokine (monocyte chemotactic protein-1) that plays a major role in inflammation and autoimmune disorders like sclerosis.
First, the researchers observed how DHEA affects the T cell response in cells isolated from mice with sclerosis. They also found that high-dosage DHEA reduces markers of inflammation and the number of pathogenic T cells.
Afterwards, the researchers tested if the development of sclerosis in the mice affected their DHEA levels. It turned out that the DHEA level in the spine and spleen varies, but not in the brain. Also, they observed that levels of DHEA are highest when the disease is in abeyance.
Once the researchers started supplementing the mice with DHEA, they could see that smaller doses were ineffective. Only high doses were able to lower inflammation and other disease markers according to a specific score.
In other studies, scientists have found that mice treated with DHEA have fewer inflammation markers than mice in the control group. They also discovered that DHEA treatment of healthy mice does not affect their immune response. Based on this, the scientists conclude that greater amounts of DHEA can lessen the severity of sclerosis compared with other therapies. Their study is published in Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Oily fish and fish oil supplements

It is advisable to get plenty of essential omega-3 fatty acids by eating oily fish such as herring, anchovies, mackerel, and free-range salmon from clear and unpolluted waters. An option is to take a fish oil supplement with a high DHA content and to aim for the highest recommended daily dose.


Justin S. Kim et al. Role of omega-3 endocannabinoids in the modulation of T-cell activity in a multiple sclerosis experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2023

Annie Lennon. Multiple sclerosis (MS): High doses of omega-3 reduce symptoms in animal study. MedicalNewsToday 2023

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