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10-09-2014 | Could Omega-3 Fish Oil prevent seizures

10 September 2014
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A new study claims people with epilepsy could reduce seizure frequency by consuming low doses of omega-3 fish oil every day.

Consuming low doses of omega-3 fish oil every day for 10 weeks appeared to reduce seizure frequency by a third among patients with epilepsy, according to researchers.

The research team, led by Prof. Christopher DeGiorgio of the Department of Neurology at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, says their findings may be particularly useful to epilepsy patients who no longer respond to medication.

They publish their findings in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

The team notes that omega-3 has been linked to reduced brain cell excitability among people with epilepsy, which may curb seizures.

However, they point out that previous studies looking at such associations using high-dose fish oil have been inconclusive.

For their study, the researchers enrolled 24 participants with epilepsy who had stopped responding to antiepileptic medication. Each patient was subject to three different supplementation regimes, each of which lasted for 10 weeks and were divided by a 6-week period. These were:

  • Low-dose fish oil supplementation: three fish oil supplements daily - the equivalent of 1,080 mg of omega-3 - plus three placebo supplements (corn oil)
  • High-dose fish oil supplementation: six fish oil supplements daily - the equivalent of 2,160 mg of omega-3
  • Three placebo supplements twice a day

The researchers found that the fewest number of seizures occurred - 12 a month - when participants were following the low-dose fish oil regime, compared with 17 a month on the high-dose regime and around 18 a month for the placebo regime. This means the low-dose regime represented a 33.6% reduction in seizures.

The team also found that two of the patients following the low-dose fish oil regime had no seizures at all during the 10-week trial, while none of the patients taking high-dose fish oil or placebos were seizure-free.

The team notes, however, that they found no link between fish oil and severity of seizures, changes in heart rate or blood lipid levels.

Commenting on their findings, the researchers say:

"The primary finding is that low-dose fish oil was associated with a reduction in seizure frequency of 33.6% compared with placebo. Though the size of the trial will require confirmation, the magnitude of the effect on seizure frequency is similar to many randomized trials of antiepileptic drugs".

Prof. DeGiorgio and his team admit, however, that their study is subject to some limitations. For example, they note that exposure to each of the supplementation regimes was relatively short; therefore it is unknown as to whether low-dose fish oil sustained reduced seizure frequency.

They conclude that a large, randomized controlled trial of the effects of fish oil on epilepsy is warranted in order to confirm their findings.

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