The National Multiple Sclerosis Society knows that people with MS are seeking to live their best lives and want more and better information – particularly in the areas of diet, exercise and mood – to guide proactive wellness choices. Understanding and addressing gaps in wellness research and using this newfound knowledge to inform life-changing solutions is a Society priority.
To advance this critical work the Society recently convened nearly 60 MS research experts, wellness experts and people living with MS at a meeting to review the current evidence around diet, exercise and mood interventions in MS. Attendees identified gaps in knowledge and considered what next steps the Society might take in advancing comprehensive wellness solutions.
In sifting through the vast and complex array of current wellness information ranging from fact and opinion to personal experience and scientific literature, attendees noted trends and research in the area of diet that may link MS to obesity, sodium, gut bacteria, polyunsaturated fats and vitamin D. It was determined that most studies were insufficient and lacked proper design to provide conclusive results.
Research into the area of exercise appeared promising – serving as an effective strategy for improving aerobic capacity and muscle strength, mobility, quality of life, and symptoms of fatigue and depression in MS. However, the efficacy or effectiveness of any specific exercise program for people with MS has not been established and was therefore noted as a gap.
Mood disorders such as stress, depression and anxiety are often underdiagnosed and untreated in people living with MS, but are well documented in the general population as impacting quality of life. For people living with MS, mood disorders can present an even greater challenge to living well and with little research on the known impact, attendees called for immediate attention to this area.
With this understanding, attendees identified many of the research challenges to address in order to uncover answers that will inform wellness programming and other life-changing solutions. These challenges ranged from proper study design and participant adherence, to a lack of investigators focused on wellness research and the high cost of large-scale clinical trials necessary to produce conclusive results.
After careful consideration of the identified research challenges, meeting attendees made recommendations to the Society on how to move forward with a comprehensive and collaborative wellness research strategy, along with specific recommendations on a corresponding wellness programming approach to implement over the coming months.
Through continued strategic focus, the Society looks forward to driving research and programming to deliver important wellness solutions in the areas of diet, exercise and mood that will help people with MS live their best lives.
A white paper providing more detail on the meeting outcomes can be found on the Society’s website. To stay informed of the progress of the Society’s wellness initiative, check our website for regular updates and connect with your chapter on upcoming engagement opportunities.