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Children and Teens Who Developed MS Had Consumed Less Iron in Their Diets, Says New Study Funded by National MS Society

August 7, 2017

SUMMARY
  • Investigators with the Network of Pediatric MS Centers, established with funding from the National MS Society, studied dietary habits of 312 children and teenagers with MS, along with 456 without MS.
  • This study found an association between low iron intake and pediatric MS, but not other dietary factors. Further study is needed to understand the implications of this finding.
  • This team is about to launch a National MS Society-funded study of how diet affects the course of MS in children and adolescents with established disease.
  • The team (Julia Pakpoor, MD, Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, and colleagues in the Network of Pediatric MS Centers) reports results in the MS Journal (published online June 13, 2017, and available open access). The study was funded by the National MS Society and the National Institutes of Health.
DETAILS
Background: In contrast to adult MS, pediatric MS appears to have a narrower window of onset, which needs to be better understood if effective treatments are to be provided. The Network of Pediatric MS Centers (NPMSC) was launched with Society funding in 2006 to set the standard for pediatric MS care, educate the medical community about this underserved population, and create the framework to conduct critical research. Since 2013, the Society has committed $5.8 million to support the research Network to provide essential infrastructure to facilitate research. Currently, the Network is assessing the environmental and genetic risk factors that make children susceptible to developing MS.
 
The Study: A total of 312 children with MS ages 18 or younger were recruited from 16 pediatric hospitals in the United States, along with 456 control subjects without MS. These children or their parents were asked to complete a questionnaire on demographic information and medical history. Dietary intake of fiber, fat, protein, carbohydrate, fruit, vegetables, dairy, and iron was assessed via another questionnaire that evaluated the frequency and portions of foods and beverages consumed during the previous week.  
 
The results suggest that children with MS were more likely to be consuming less iron than recommended in dietary guidelines. There was no significant association between the development of pediatric MS and dietary intake of fiber, fat, carbohydrate, protein, fruits, vegetables, or dairy.
 
The team (Julia Pakpoor, MD, Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, and colleagues in the Network of Pediatric MS Centers) reports results in the MS Journal (published online June 13, 2017, and available open access). The study was funded by the National MS Society and the National Institutes of Health. 
 
Next Steps: This study found that reduced iron intake may be associated with MS in children and teenagers, but it was not designed to show any causative effect. The authors suggest that iron abnormalities may impact the function of both the immune and nervous systems, and balanced intake is important. They add that future studies should also investigate the role of specific vitamins and minerals on established disease. To this end, they have received research funding from the National MS Society to study how dietary factors affect the course of MS in children and adolescents.
 
Read more about diet and nutrition in MS
Read about dietary guidelines from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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