Evidence highlighting the benefits of including fish and seafood in a healthy diet continues to build. Eating fish, and thereby consuming the vital omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins that it contains, is already believed to be an important way to preserve a healthy heart and support brain function.
Now, with recent research citing an association between eating fish and the prevention of multiple sclerosis (MS), there’s even more reason to include fish in your diet.
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What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis, most commonly referred to as simply MS, is a very serious disease that has no known cure. Essentially, for those people with MS, the body’s immune system attacks the fatty white substance that protects our nerves, known as myelin. Under these conditions, the central nervous system is impacted as the signals between the brain and body are disrupted, which typically leads to fatigue, numbness, tingling and/or difficulty walking, all of which may become more severe over time. Another feature of MS is that its first episode typically lasts over 24 hours and is commonly known as clinically isolate syndrome.
A New Study on Fish and MS
Recent research performed by Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena examined both the risk of MS and clinically isolated syndrome in evaluating the 1,153 study participants. More specifically, the researchers evaluated the diets of these individuals (who had an average age of 36 years and came from a wide variety of backgrounds), of whom roughly half had been diagnosed with MS or clinically isolated syndrome, and focused on their fish intake.
For the purposes of the study, participants with a high fish intake were those people who ate either one serving of fish per week or one to three servings per month in addition to taking daily fish oil supplements. Conversely, the low intake group consumed less than one serving of fish per month and no fish oil supplements.
Upon comparison, the researchers found that the high fish intake group exhibited a 45 percent reduced risk of developing MS or clinically isolated syndrome as compared to the low fish intake group. Interestingly, they also found evidence of genetic advantages among some people in the processing of omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers cautioned that the association found in this study does not prove causation, and that more research into this phenomenon is required, but early results are compelling nonetheless.
The Benefits of Increasing Your Fish Intake
Limiting your risk of developing multiple sclerosis should be powerful motivation to eat more fish, but there are plenty of other reasons to do so too. In fact, there is a compelling list of reasons to consume more fish, including protection again heart attacks, strokes, cancer and several mental illnesses.
Supplements are also beneficial in securing the necessary amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and both fish oil and krill oil can be beneficial depending on your health priorities. Consider adding these supplements into your diet as needed and be sure to include fish on a regular basis as well (salmon, albacore tuna, sardines and lake trout are examples of fish that are recommended as good sources of omega-3 fatty acids). We continue to learn more about the protective effects of eating fish and taking fish supplements, but it is becoming clear that their ability to fight inflammation and promote healthy cells is beneficial for most everyone.
Derek is a researcher, presenter and community liaison at the Behavioral Health & Wellness Program at the University of Colorado, specializing in promoting health systems change and combating health disparities. With his background as a technical writer and editor, he has over 15 years of experience working in the health care field. His experience includes serving as a contributing author on several textbooks in the medical field, running a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and writing a variety of other pieces ranging from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal passion for health and wellness by playing multiple sports, hiking and running marathons, and travels extensively, having visited or lived in over 60 countries.