Skip to navigation Skip to content



Lifestyle News: Swedish Study Suggests that People Who Drink Alcohol Had Less Risk of Developing MS

January 13, 2014

A new study using data collected in large Swedish studies suggests that people who reported that they drank alcohol were less likely to develop MS. The results conflict with a study published in 2013 that found no association. This study does not shed light on the effects of alcohol on people who already have MS, and further study is necessary to confirm the relationship of alcohol and MS Anna Karin Hedström, MD (Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm) and colleagues report their findings in JAMA Neurology (Published online January 6, 2014). The study was supported by grants from the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, and other agencies.

Background: Alcohol consumption has been associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, and also those mediated through the immune system such as arthritis and lupus because alcohol may suppress some immune responses, so researchers continue to study its association with MS risk.

In a previous study, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health examined the association between alcohol and caffeine intake and risk of developing MS in two large groups of women and found no connection between either and the development of MS. (MS Journal, January 2013 vol. 19 no. 1 53-58)

The Study: Investigators reviewed information from two Swedish epidemiological studies, which asked a total of 6,619 people with MS and 7,007 controls without MS to recall information on lifestyle factors. In both populations, both men and women who consumed alcohol were less likely to develop MS.

They also investigated links to cigarette smoking, which has been previously reported to increase the risk of MS. They reported that the impacts of smoking on MS risk increased in people who smoked and did not drink alcohol.

Conclusion: Unlike a previous study in MS, this study shows some evidence that alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of developing MS. This study does not shed light on the effects of alcohol on people who already have MS. Further study is necessary to confirm the relationship of alcohol and MS and to determine the possible reasons.

The authors raise the possibility that people with MS, including those not yet diagnosed, may be less tolerant of alcohol due to the effects of the disease on the nervous system, so the decrease in alcohol consumption may be a result of the disease.  There is also the possibility that some unknown factor is responsible both for the higher risk of MS among non-drinkers and the fact that they were non-drinkers.

People with MS should talk to their physicians about how much alcohol is appropriate for them to drink and how often. Read more about alcohol, smoking and MS.

Read more about healthy living with MS.

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.


© 2023 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.