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Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E Reduce ALS Risk

A diet rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E may reduce the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to Dutch researchers. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disorder.

A total of 132 patients with definite or possible ALS and 220 healthy controls answered a questionnaire about their dietary intake in the year before noticing ALS symptoms. Patients referred to researcher's clinic during the one-year period, 2001-2002, who had definite, probable or possible ALS according to El Escorial criteria, without a familial history of ALS, were asked to participate in a case-control study.

ALS patients had markedly lower omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin E intake than did controls. For both nutrients, the highest intake (compared to the lowest intake) was associated with a 50-60% reduction in the risk of ALS. The difference was not explained by other patient characteristics such as age, sex, smoking, body weight, education, duration of disease, or total calorie intake. The intake of flavonols, lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin B2, glutamate, calcium, or phytoestrogens was not associated with ALS.

The beneficial component in polyunsaturated fatty acids is omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and nuts. The researchers explained that PUFA and vitamin E appeared to work synergistically. They added, "The finding that a higher intake of PUFAs appeared to decrease the risk of developing ALS may be in accordance with the results of studies in patients with other primarily neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease."

There are a number of good fish oils on the market, but one of the best new ways to get omega-3 polyunsaturated fats is from krill oil.


Veldink JH, Kalmijn S, Groeneveld GJ, et al. Intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E reduce the risk of developing ALS. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2006 Apr 28; [Epub ahead of print].

Key concepts: Omega-3 fish oil, vitamin E, ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease