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Higher levels of eicosapentaenoic acid and linoleic acid also associated with reduced risk of death during follow-up.

Higher plasma levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is associated with reduced risk of death in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to a study published online June 21 in Neurology.

Kjetil Bjornevik, M.D., Ph.D., from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined whether plasma levels of ALA and other PUFAs contributed to predicting survival time and functional decline in patients with ALS. A total of 449 participants underwent fatty acid analyses; 28.1 percent died during follow-up.

The researchers found that higher ALA levels were associated with reduced risk of death (age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio, 0.50 comparing the highest versus the lowest quartile) and higher joint-rank test score (10.7 for 1 standard deviation increase), which was consistent with a slower functional decline. In analyses adjusted for multiple confounding variables, including body mass index, race/ethnicity, symptom duration, site of onset, riluzole use, family history of ALS, predicted upright slow vital capacity, and treatment group, the estimates remained similar. Higher eicosapentaenoic acid and linoleic acid levels were associated with reduced risk of death during follow-up.

“The link our study found between diet and ALS is intriguing and suggests, but does not prove, that people with ALS may benefit from incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids into their diet,” Bjornevik said in a statement. “It will now be important to conduct additional research looking specifically at the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid in people with ALS to further explore this possibility.”

Several authors disclosed ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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