ALS is a progressive disease that causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to break down and die. The condition is relatively rare, with roughly 5,000 patients being diagnosed with ALS each year.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress on cells. These acids are commonly found in certain fish. "[in the study,] individuals with higher dietary intakes of total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids -- an essential type of dietary fat found in vegetable oils and fish -- had a reduced risk for ALS," said Kathryn Fitzgerald, lead researcher of the study.
"We also found that higher dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of fatty acid found in vegetable oils and nuts, is also associated with lower ALS risk," For the study, researchers recruited nearly volunteers to look at the association between the neurodegenerative condition and omega-3 fatty acids. Fitzgerald and her team found that people who ate the most foods containing omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest risk of developing ALS.
Based on the findings, those who ranked in the top 20 percent in terms of their omega-3 fatty acid intake cut their odds of developing Lou Gehrig's disease by a third, compared to those in the bottom 20 percent.
Researchers warn that the study was an observational one, where the researchers look at data from published sources.
The findings were recently published in JAMA Neurology.