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Is more oleic acid in the diet the answer to MS?
There is no doubt that multiple sclerosis is one of the scariest and most debilitating diseases around, in no small part thanks to the fact that it’s caused by your own body.
This autoimmune disease attacks from within and wears down the protective coating around nerve fibers in the central nervous system, slowly stealing your coordination, your vision and your independence.
And to add insult to injury, it’s a disease that scientists and doctors still do not truly understand, pointing to a combination of environment and genetics as possibilities, with no true guiding principle behind the theories.
Now, however, a new study may have found a more concrete reason for the why behind MS — one that could also lead to a solution to combat the disease…
MS and The Missing Fatty Acid
Oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid and a common monounsaturated fatty acid that most of us get in our daily diets, at least at low levels.
Yet, a new study from researchers at Yale University found that fat tissue from patients diagnosed with MS lacked normal levels of oleic acid.
And their research showed that the abnormal immune system response that causes multiple sclerosis in the first place by attacking and damaging the central nervous system can be triggered when this oleic acid goes missing.
Here’s how it works…
When there’s not enough oleic acid in your body, it leads to a loss of the metabolic sensors responsible for activating your body’s T cells. These are the cells that help to mediate or balance your immune system’s response to an infectious disease or foreign invader.
In other words, they give the go signal if there’s a real enemy to fight, but hold up the stop sign when it comes to attacking your own body.
Without the suppressing effects of these regulatory T cells, your immune system can start attacking the otherwise healthy cells of your central nervous system. And this is what leads to the eventual vision loss, pain, lack of coordination and other debilitating symptoms of MS.
To put it simply, a lack of oleic acid in your fat cells could mean that MS (or worsening symptoms of the disease) is on the horizon.
Amping up your T cells
Luckily, the researchers also discovered that this whole process also works in reverse.
They found that when they introduced oleic acids into fatty tissue in laboratory experiments, the levels of those vital regulatory T cells increased.
“We’ve known for a while that both genetics and the environment play a role in the development of MS,’’ said senior author David Hafler, William S. and Lois Stiles Edgerly Professor of Neurology and professor of immunobiology and chair of the Department of Neurology. “This paper suggests that one of the environmental factors involved is diet.”
Of course, the team says that more study is needed before they can say for sure if eating a diet high in oleic acid can help MS patients reduce symptoms or even reverse the disease.
But considering the scientifically proven benefits of the fatty acid, such as reduced triglycerides and cholesterol, adding more to your diet could be a great way to live heart healthy and possibly find relief from the ravages of MS at the same time.
Oleic acid is found naturally in foods like meats, cheeses, nuts, avocadoes, olives, and seeds like black cumin seeds (the oil extracted from the seed is rich in oleic acid) and sunflower seeds.
Health effects of oleic acid and long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) enriched milks. A review of intervention studies — ScienceDirect
Fatty acid may help combat multiple sclerosis, study finds — ScienceDaily