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Omega-3 supplements don’t help during MS relapse


Omega-3 fatty acid supplements were not associated with beneficial effects on disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, according to a study.

Multiple sclerosis affects about 2.5 million people worldwide, the authors wrote in background information for the study, which appeared April 16 on the website of the Archives of Neurology. Some patients use, or have tried, omega-3 fatty acids supplementation to control the disease because the essential fatty acids theoretically have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects in MS.

Øivind Torkildsen, MD, PhD, of Haukeland University Hospital in Norway, and colleagues included 92 patients with MS in their double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to examine whether omega-3 fatty acid supplementation as a monotherapy or in combination with subcutaneous interferon beta-1a could reduce disease activity.

Half the patients were given 1,350 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and 850 mg of docosahexaenoic acid daily, and the other half received a placebo. After six months, all patients received interferon beta-1a three times a week for another 18 months. Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure disease activity by the number of new T1-weighted gadolinium-enhancing lesions in the brain.

“The results from this study did not show any beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on disease activity in MS as a monotherapy or in combination with interferon beta,” the authors wrote.

The researchers noted their results contrast with two previous studies that reported indications of a positive effect.

In this study, the median number of new T1-weighted gadolinium-enhancing lesions was three in the omega-3 fatty acids group and two in the placebo group during the first six months. The results indicated no difference between the two groups in the number of relapses during the first six months of treatment or after 24 months. No differences were detected either in fatigue or quality-of-life scores.

The authors said their data do not suggest that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation was harmful or that it interfered with interferon beta treatment, which they noted can reduce disease activity in the relapsing-remitting course of the disease.

“The design of this study allowed us to compare the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation both against placebo alone and in combination with interferon beta,” the authors wrote. “As expected, the MRI disease activity was significantly reduced when interferon beta-1a was introduced.”

To view the data and access the study via subscription or purchase, visit


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