Fish Oils Suppress Seizures Through Estrogen

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from food reduces the severity of seizures in mice by causing more estrogen to be produced in the brain, researchers say.

AsianScientist (Aug. 22, 2017) – In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Hiroshima University have shown that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) reduces the frequency of seizures by inducing estrogen production in the brain.

DHA is found in abundance in fish oils and is also synthesized from alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in some vegetable-based oils. DHA is known to reduce epileptic seizures, but the mechanism through which it acts is unknown.

At the same time, estrogen is also known to play an important role in brain health. In the present study, a team led by Assistant Professor Yasuhiro Ishihara wanted to determine if there was any link between the positive effects of estrogen on the brain and the effect of DHA on seizures. To do so, the researchers investigated how three groups of mice fed on different oil-based diets reacted to induced seizures.

One group was fed a diet consisting of soybean oil, which enabled them to produce more DHA. Another group was fed cottonseed oil, and a third on cottonseed oil in addition to DHA supplements.

After 28 days on these diets, the three groups were exposed to seizure-inducing drugs. The group fed on soybean oil took longer to exhibit seizures, and when they did occur they were of a shorter duration than those fed on cottonseed oil. However, the mice fed on cottonseed oil with DHA supplementation, took far longer for seizures to take hold, proving that dietary-sourced DHA was a key contributing factor.

When the researchers examined the brains of these mice they found that the soybean oil-fed ones had over twice the concentration of estrogen present as those fed solely on cottonseed oil. The mice fed on cottonseed with DHA supplementation had even higher levels of the hormone, suggesting that estrogen production affects seizures, and that this is directly connected to DHA’s presence.

To prove this link between estrogen concentration in the brain and omega-3 fatty acid intake/DHA-synthesis, a second experiment was carried out. This time, one group of mice were again fed on cottonseed oil, and another group on cottonseed oil with DHA supplementation. In addition, a third group was fed on cottonseed oil with DHA supplements—and also Letrozole—a drug which prevents estrogen synthesis.

When seizures were induced this time round, the group exposed to Letrozole were found to have seizures much earlier than those fed on cottonseed fortified with DHA, thus confirming estrogens importance in preventing seizures.

This research demonstrates, for the first time, that brain estrogen activated by dietary-sourced DHA can control seizure latency. It is expected that these findings will contribute to the development of medication for treating epilepsy, as well as furthering our understanding of the relationship between lipid intake and brain health.

The article can be found at: Ishihara et al. (2017) Potentiation of 17β-estradiol Synthesis in the Brain and Elongation of Seizure Latency through Dietary Supplementation with Docosahexaenoic Acid.


Source: Hiroshima University; Photo: Pexels.
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