Forget ice buckets—eat some fish, instead

Are you serious about fighting ALS? Well I’m not going to ask you to stand under a bucket of ice water to prove it. But I am going to urge you to share this information with everyone you know…

It comes from a new study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And while it may not offer a cure for this devastating neurodegenerative disease (technically known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), it does offer critical advice for anyone trying to avoid it.

Harvard researchers recently analyzed data from over one million subjects from five different cohorts. And they found subjects with the highest intake of omega-3s were less likely to wind up with ALS than subjects with the lowest omega-3 intake. By nearly a third.

This is hardly surprising, when you consider what a vital role fatty acids play, not only in protecting your brain’s health, but in controlling runaway inflammation, too.

But there’s one thing that I did find a little surprising: This study also showed plant-based omega-3s (from alpha linolenic acid, or ALA) correlate to reduced ALS risk right alongside omega-3 fatty acids from fish.

Of course, as I’ve explained before, ALA is not a sufficient source of omega-3s by itself. And this study doesn’t change that. It’s not exactly worthless. But your body has a hard time converting ALA into more bioactive forms of omega-3—especially as you get older. So stick with a high-quality fish oil instead.

Median intakes of omega-3s came in at around 1,500 mg for the men and women in this study. So it stands to reason that you’d need more than that to ward off an ALS diagnosis. As always, I recommend taking at least 3,000 mg of EPA/DHA per day.


“Dietary ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake and Risk for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.” JAMA Neurol. 2014 Jul 14.