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Doing a Diet Study Using Telehealth Works, Says New Study Funded by National MS Society

October 26, 2020

In a small study, researchers found that people with MS largely complied with a diet study that was administered via telehealth (coaching by phone and email check-ins). This study, made possible with funding from a National MS Society pilot research award, raises the possibility that delivering dietary instruction individually via telehealth is an effective method for helping individuals change their dietary habits without having to leave home.
  • What is the best diet for people with MS? What difference does diet make in the disease course? Efforts are underway to answer these questions with rigorous studies, such as this one, which tests whether delivering a dietary intervention remotely via telehealth can work.
  • In this study, participants followed a low glycemic (foods minimizing spikes in blood sugar) diet for 12 weeks. Each week, participants received an email that included information to help with behavior changes (e.g., meal planning worksheets, goal setting worksheets) or to address barriers (e.g., eating healthy on a budget, quick meals). A telecoach – a registered dietician or someone with a degree in health education or kinesiology – called participants weekly.
  • The goal of the study was to determine if conducting a diet study in this manner was feasible – that is, whether recruiting participants was achievable and whether participants would adhere to the intervention using this telehealth strategy.
  • Eighteen of 20 participants completed the diet and follow-up measures, indicating that the study was indeed feasible. There were indications that sleep, mood, anxiety, and pain improved, but the study was not designed to fully test these outcomes. The authors note that larger studies of longer duration would be necessary to verify these benefits.
  • There may not be one diet for MS, but eating healthfully is a crucial component of wellness. Learn how to make life easier in the kitchen and get additional resources for weight management, nutrition, and food assistance.
 “Feasibility of improving dietary quality using a telehealth lifestyle intervention for adults with multiple sclerosis,” by Drs. Brooks Wingo, Robert Motl, and colleagues (University of Alabama at Birmingham), is published in MS and Related Disorders (2020;46:102504).

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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