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Diet Quality Linked to Less Disability Progression in People with MS

August 14, 2023

People who reported healthy eating also reported significantly less disability progression over more than seven years in a study of 603 people with MS. This new study from the University of Melbourne in Australia is part of an ongoing effort to provide rigorous results on how lifestyle factors may affect MS outcomes.
Background: Diet is important in MS, possibly affecting disease activity and immune function. There is no definitive diet that has been scientifically proven to be beneficial in changing the course of MS. It is more challenging to show the benefits of a diet as opposed to a medication – one reason being that it is difficult to make sure that participants adhere to the diet. But this kind of research is needed to determine how people with MS and their health care providers can determine whether making dietary changes will improve outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne established the HOLISM study in 2011 - Health Outcomes and Lifestyle In a Sample of people with MS. This study is looking at the effects of diet and other lifestyle factors on MS in 2,500 participants who are assessed every 2.5 years. Previous results showed that better diet quality was linked to increased quality of life in this group.
The Study: The investigators analyzed data from 602 participants in the HOLISM study. Diet quality was assessed using a questionnaire that reported on the types of healthy and unhealthy foods eaten. Disability progression was measured using a self-reported assessment of mobility impairments.
Results: People who reported higher quality diets were significantly less likely to report disability progression after 7.5 years. Responses relating to higher dairy consumption and eating more fat  had the strongest link to increases in disability. Eating more fruits/vegetables, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and healthier food choices were also significantly associated with less risk of progression, but the links were less consistent.
What does this mean? This ongoing study is adding information needed to help people with MS and their health care providers understand how diet impacts MS and what changes may improve outcomes for people with MS. These results in particular show that maintaining diet quality may be important in reducing disability progression.
While we do not yet know that a specific diet will help your MS, any positive changes you make are likely to help your overall health and well-being.
Learn More… Longitudinal associations between quality of diet and disability over 7.5 years in an international sample of people with multiple sclerosis,” by Steve Simpson-Yap, Sandra L. Neate, Nupur Nag, Yasmine C. Probst, Maggie Yu, George A. Jelinek, and Jeanette C. Reece is published in European Journal of Neurology (First published: 11 July 2023).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. 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. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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