EPA and DHA for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS) in which the immune system starts attacking neurons (brain cells). The immune system releases T-lymphocytes, antibodies and macrophages which target and damage the myelin sheath covering axon of neurons.

The antibodies create lesions in the fatty layer which disrupts the electrical impulse passing through the cells. The disturbed neurotransmission breaks the relay of instruction from the nervous system to other body parts.

The T-cell driven demyelination in MS ends up triggering various symptoms ranging from insignificant ones to more life altering ones; like paralysis, weak eye sight, loss of hand-eye coordination, weak bladder, leaky gut syndrome and short term memory loss.

MS like other autoimmune inflammatory diseases, does not trigger the same symptoms in every person. Some have more intense symptoms while others have barely noticeable ones.

As of now there is no treatment to reverse the myelin damage and cure MS. But the symptoms can be managed through different kinds of medicine. Many experts suggest controlling the disease with diets and supplements.

One common suggestion from different sources tells to use get more EPA and DHA fatty acids through diet and supplements.

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are fatty acids which are present in Omega-3 fats. These fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats with long structural chains and are vital nutrients for a healthy body.

EPA and DHA are known to increase HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides and improve brain activity. These two compounds are believed to decrease inflammatory responses in the immune system.

Since EPA and DHA showed benefits to other immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, researchers hypothesized EPA and DHA to possibly help alleviate symptoms in patients with MS.

The study conducted in the later years was based around the hypothesis that omega-3 fats i.e. DHA and EPA inhibit matrix metalloproteinase-9, which is a protein known to cause inflammation in the CNS.

The study involved 16 patients with newly diagnosed MS, who were administered with 900 mg fatty acids from fish i.e. 500 mg DHA and 400 mg EPA, daily. Regular follow up and neurological assessment was maintained with the patients for two years, with their dietary habits and vitals being monitored as well.

Patients exhibited a significant decline (25%) in the Expanded Disability Status Scale and decreased the annual progression rate of brain atrophy. Which means that, with careful administration of DHA and EPA along with dietary and vitamin intake advice, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be regulated and slowed down.

These results spoke in favor of Omega-3 fatty acids being beneficial for patients with MS, managing their symptoms during relapse and remission periods.

A more current study combined the administration of fish oil omega-3 acids (EPA=1980g, DHA=1320mg) per day with a relatively low fat diet (15% fat); and compared with the American Heart Association step 1 diet (30% fat). Both studies were conducted involving patients with Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) for one year.

The study found that both groups fared well compared to the rates of the year before the therapy started. But the group on the fish oil therapy did better in physical and cognitive assessments. The researchers concluded that EPA and DHA combined with a low-fat diet might be able to potentially improve the management of symptoms for patients suffering from MS. But one factor which should be kept in mind for future is that the source of DHA should be a pharmaceutical grade to avoid the presence of heavy metals.

April 04, 2018 by

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