Higher levels of the plant-based α-linolenic acid are associated with reduced disease activity in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study recently published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

This study included 87 individuals with MS who had previously taken part in the OFAMS study, which investigated the effects of ω-3 fatty acids. During follow-up, the study researchers found that increased levels of α-linolenic acid were significantly linked with a decreased chance of new T2-lesions (odds ratio [OR] 0.59; 95% CI, 0.37-0.95). New T1Gd+ lesions showed similar but statistically non-significant results (OR 0.73; 95% CI, 0.48-1.11), as did new relapses (OR 0.49; 95% CI, 0.22-1.10) and Expanded Disability Status Scale progression (OR 0.62; 95% CI, 0.34-1.16). 

Random intercept logistic regression was used to calculate confidence intervals and odds ratios in quantifying the associations between new magnetic resonance imaging lesions, levels of α-linolenic acid, and Expanded Disability Status Scale progression, while adjusting for interferon beta-1a use, sex, and age at the time of inclusion. Adjusting for tobacco use and vitamin D did not have any significant effect on the results. Results were presented in continuous increments of 1 standard deviation. 

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The study researchers conclude that “higher [α-linolenic acid] levels were associated with lower [magnetic resonance imaging] activity in a cohort of MS patients. This suggests that the ω-3 fatty acid has beneficial effects on disease activity in MS that should be evaluated in future trials.”


Bjornevik K, Myhr KM, Beiske A, et al. α-Linolenic acid is associated with MRI activity in a prospective cohort of multiple sclerosis patients [published online June 4, 2018]. Mult Scler. doi: 10.1177/1352458518779925