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Omega-3 supplementation associated with fewer and shorter seizures in epileptics

Reprinted with the kind permission of Life Extension [1].

January 21 2019. A triple-blind trial reported in Clinical and Translational Medicine [2] on January 16, 2019 found a benefit for supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) among men and women with intractable seizures.

The trial included 50 patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy [3]who received a placebo or 180 milligrams (mg) EPA plus 120 mg DHA twice daily for 16 weeks. Seizure frequency and duration, and blood levels of the inflammatory factors tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were assessed at the beginning and end of the trial.

Nine of the 25 participants who received omega-3 had no seizures during the study compared to five of the those who received a placebo. Length of seizures (in minutes) among those who received omega-3 averaged less than half that of the placebo group.

Median TNF-a levels declined by 38% in the supplemented subjects while increasing by 77% in the placebo group. Interleukin-6 levels were also significantly lower at the end of the trial among those who received omega-3 compared to the placebo, indicating a reduction in inflammation.

“The epileptogenesis process has been linked with the overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-6 as demonstrated by increased susceptibility to seizures in inflammatory disorders such as colitis, pneumonia and rheumatoid arthritis,” the authors write. “In addition, several studies have demonstrated the malfunction of the blood–brain barrier following the administration of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α which might be associated with predisposition to seizure.”

“Supplementation resulted in a significant decrease in TNF-α and IL-6 concentrations,” they conclude. “Further studies are needed to compare different omega-3 fatty acid compositions and determine the most effective dose and treatment duration as well as the long-term benefits of this supplementation.”

—D Dye