A recent study published in Scientific Reports revealed that fish oil supplements may boost estrogen levels in the brain, thereby reducing the frequency and duration of seizures.
As part of research, a team of health experts assessed how three groups of mice models would react on a diet that included various types of oil. One group was fed with soybean oil, while another group was given cotton seed oil. The third group was also on cottonseed oil, but was also given docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplements. All the three groups were then given the chemical convulsant, pentylenetetrazole, after 28 days.
The animal models that received soybean oil took longer to display symptoms of seizure. The seizures that occurred in the said group also had shorter duration compared with those that received cottonseed alone. However, seizures were shorter and less frequent in mice models that received both cottonseed oil and DHA supplements. (Related: CONFIRMED: Omega-3s boost blood flow to regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory.)
According to the researchers, the findings demonstrated that DHA supplementation was a contributing factor in seizure latency.
Experts find link between DHA, brain estrogen levels
The researchers have carried out another experiment to further establish the relationship between DHA supplementation and brain estrogen concentration.
During the study, the research team fed one group of mice with cottonseed oil alone, while a second group was given cottonseed oil plus DHA supplements. A third group was given both treatments plus Letrozole — a drug that mitigates aromatase (P450arom) expression and subsequent estrogen synthesis.
The scientists found that the group that was given Letrozole developed seizures faster than those that were given cottonseed oil plus DHA supplements. The results demonstrate the importance of estrogen in preventing the onset of seizures, the researchers said.
“DHA has several physiological actions, including anti-oxidative activity, but its molecular mechanisms are largely unknown. In the present study, we showed that DHA increased the level of 17β-estradiol in the brain via the upregulation of P450arom. 17β-estradiol has been suggested to have neuroprotective effects because the expression of P450arom is elevated after ischemia…In conclusion, we found that dietary supplementation with DHA upregulates P450arom expression, subsequently increasing the level of 17β-estradiol in the cerebral cortex. DHA-induced 17β-estradiol synthesis can suppress convulsive seizures via its anti-oxidative effects. The present study suggests that 17β-estradiol in the brain mediates the physiological actions of DHA,” the researchers wrote online.
Potential implications in seizure management
The findings may show potential in alleviating the growing number of epileptic attacks around the world.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) fact sheet, about 50 million people worldwide now have epilepsy, which makes the disease one of the most common forms of neurological disorders across the global population.
The fact sheet also revealed that nearly 80 percent of patients with epilepsy reside in low- and middle-income countries. About three fourths of these patients fail to get the necessary treatments for their condition.
Patients with epilepsy were known to respond to treatments 70 percent of the time. However, the fact sheet showed that epileptic patients and their families continue to suffer from stigma and discrimination.
In addition, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 3.4 million people in the U.S. had active epilepsy in 2015 alone. According to the CDC, three million of these were adults, while more than 400,000 were children.
California had the highest number of epilepsy cases in the said year, the CDC report showed. This was followed by Texas, Florida, and New York. Other states with the highest epilepsy cases include Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio as well as Pennsylvania Virginia and North Dakota.