Omega-3 Supplements Don't Benefit Patients With MS

No difference in number of MRI lesions, relapse rate, clinical disease activity with ω-3 supplements

WEDNESDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Omega-3 (ω-3) fatty acid supplements do not improve disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study published online April 16 in the Archives of Neurology.

Øivind Torkildsen, M.D., Ph.D., of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, and colleagues conducted a multicenter, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trial in patients (aged 18 to 55 years) with active relapsing-remitting MS. Ninety-two participants with a disability score ≤5.0 on the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale were randomly allocated in a 1:1 ratio to receive ω-3 fatty acids (1,350 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and 850 mg of docosahexaenoic acid daily) or placebo capsules. In addition, after six months, all patients received subcutaneous interferon beta-1a three times a week for 18 months. Disease activity was measured by lesions evidenced on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical measures.

During the first six months, the researchers found that the cumulative number of gadolinium-enhancing MRI lesions was similar between the two groups. There was no difference in relapse rate at either six or 24 months. Disease progression, fatigue or quality-of life scores, and safety concerns were similar between the two groups, and 70 percent of all patients in both groups experienced no disability progression. Serum analyses showed an increase in ω-3 fatty acids in the patients treated with ω-3 fatty acids versus the patients treated with placebo.

"No beneficial effects on disease activity were detected from ω--3 fatty acids when compared with placebo as monotherapy or in combination with interferon beta-1a," the authors conclude.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Merck-Serono, which, together with Pronova Biocare and Amersham Health, partially funded the study.

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