Antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in multiple sclerosis

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Dec;59(12):1347-61. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602255.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Oligodendrocyte damage and subsequent axonal demyelination is a hallmark of this disease. Different pathomechanisms, for example, immune-mediated inflammation, oxidative stress and excitotoxicity, are involved in the immunopathology of MS. The risk of developing MS is associated with increased dietary intake of saturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and antioxidant deficiencies along with decreased cellular antioxidant defence mechanisms have been observed in MS patients. Furthermore, antioxidant and PUFA treatment in experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, an animal model of MS, decreased the clinical signs of disease. Low-molecular-weight antioxidants may support cellular antioxidant defences in various ways, including radical scavenging, interfering with gene transcription, protein expression, enzyme activity and by metal chelation. PUFAs may not only exert immunosuppressive actions through their incorporation in immune cells but also may affect cell function within the CNS. Both dietary antioxidants and PUFAs have the potential to diminish disease symptoms by targeting specific pathomechanisms and supporting recovery in MS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / deficiency
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diet therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / immunology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Reactive Oxygen Species