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Does Fish Oil Help Prevent Seizures?

A typical fish oil softgel

In the April 2013 issue of the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, Drs. Taha and colleagues from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Toronto Epilepsy Research Program and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, present a provocative study in rats to assess what impact does fish oil supplementation have with regards to an animal model for seizures with potential implications for humans. The investigators surmise that complex partial seizures typically arise in areas of the brain known as the amygdala, and they tend to be resistant to anti-seizure medications. The researchers investigated the effects of chronic dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from fish oil on seizure thresholds in the amygdala and measured other blood levels of these fatty acids in the blood and the brain. The investigators found that fish oil supplementation significantly increased amydyloid after-discharge threshold as compared to controls at 3, 5 and 7 months after the start of supplementation. Fish oil supplementation also increased eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels. DHA significantly increased the latency to seizure onset in a particular seizure model whereas the EPA had no significant effect. The authors concluded that these observations potentially suggest that chronic dietary fish oil supplementation can raise focal seizure thresholds and this effect is likely mediated by DHA.

Bottom LinesThis study raises the possibility that, at least in rats, supplementation with fatty acids raises the threshold for seizures to occur, bringing about the possibility that these fatty acids may help to minimize or diminish seizure electrical activation in human brains. Clearly, human trials are needed to establish whether this effect is occurs in people. Nevertheless, this study brings about the consideration of a novel approach to epilepsy and/or seizure prevention and potential for a human clinical trial to assess this issue.

by Joseph I. Sirven, MD

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