Omega-3s May Reduce the Risk of ALS: Are Women Better at Absorbing Them?
What is ALS?
Approximately 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes damage to nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. In people with ALS, motor neurons (which regulate voluntary movements and muscle power) deteriorate over time and eventually die, thereby compromising muscle function. As a result, ALS patients often become completely paralyzed.
Because it is a relatively new disease with no known cure or effective treatment (besides slowing progression), patients diagnosed with ALS are sadly expected to live just three to five years after being diagnosed. Though the origin of ALS is unknown, scientists are currently exploring oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction (two of Dr. Rodier’s components of Cellular TOIL), and glutamate toxicity as potential causes.
Omega-3s Found to Mitigate ALS Risk
A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help prevent the risk of ALS due to their potent inflammation-reducing, antioxidant properties. The study followed 995 subjects over 9 to 24 years and monitored fatty acid intake. For men, median omega-3 intake was between 1.40 and 1.85 grams/day and median omega-6 intake was between 11.82 and 15.73 grams/day; women consumed 1.14 to 1.43 grams/day of omega-3s and 8.94 to 12.01 grams/day of omega-6s on average.
Though omega-6 consumption was not shown to affect ALS risk, subjects in the top 20% of omega-3 intake dramatically lowered their risk of developing ALS by one-third. Researchers also discovered that alpha-linoleic-acid, a component of nuts and vegetable oils, seemed to reduce ALS risk as well. This is a big breakthrough for preventing or delaying the onset of ALS naturally!
Women Better at Absorbing Omega-3s?
Australian scientists are advocating for greater attention to gender in research studies after discovering that omega-3 uptake was higher in women than in men. The study examined the effects of fish oil and multivitamin supplements on red blood cells in 160 healthy adults for 16 weeks. When women tested at significantly higher omega-3 levels, researchers examined possible variables but found gender to be the most likely explanation.
Though this doesn’t mean that men can’t reap the same bold benefits of omegs-3s as women, it does suggest that men may need to boost their intake to achieve optimal uptake by red blood cells. Because ALS affects mostly middle-aged men, gender-influenced absorption is an important piece of the puzzle to consider.
Carotenoids May Lower Your Chance, Too
Findings from the folks at the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that carotenoids, the yellow, orange and red pigments synthesized by plants, lowered the risk of ALS. When researchers combined multiple study results that monitored over one million people, they found that high carotenoid intake, particularly of beta-carotene and lutein, was linked to a lower risk of ALS. One of the largest studies to date examining the relationship between nutrition and ALS, researchers think that carotenoids work by reducing and preventing oxidative stress, which is implicated in ALS.