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New Study Finds Links Between Food Allergies and Increased MS Relapses and MRI Activity

December 26, 2018

SUMMARY
  • A study based on questionnaires involving 1,349 people with MS found that food allergies, but not other types of allergies, were associated with significant increases in the number of MS relapses and disease activity on MRI scans.
  • These findings report an association, rather than a cause. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings and to determine what immune mechanisms may be at play if there is a connection between food allergies and MS disease activity.
  • The team (Rami Fakih, MD, Tanuja Chitnis, MD, and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) report their results in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (Published online December 18, 2018).
DETAILS
Background: MS is an immune system-mediated neurological disorder whose cause is not yet known. Several several genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors have been linked to the disease susceptibility and disease activity. Since common allergies are immune-mediated, some studies have investigated associations between allergies and MS, but the results have been mixed.   
 
The Study: A team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital decided to investigate any possible links between allergies and MS disease activity. They sent a questionnaire on environmental, food and medication allergies to 1,349 people with MS who were enrolled in their Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis (CLIMB) study. The CLIMB study is following approximately 2,000 people over 10 years, collecting information about their neurological status, MRI scans, and biological samples, such as blood. The self-reported information on allergies from the questionnaires was compared with number of recorded relapses, scores on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and MS Severity Score (MSSS), and disease activity on MRI scans.
 
The cumulative number of relapses was 1.3 times higher in people with food allergies than people with no known allergies, and this group was more than twice as likely to have disease activity on MRI scans. The environmental and medication allergy groups did not show significant differences when compared with those with no known allergies. EDSS and MSSS scores were not associated with any type of allergy.
The team (Rami Fakih, MD, Tanuja Chitnis, MD, and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) report their results in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (Published online December 18, 2018).
 
Conclusions: These findings report an association, rather than a cause. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings and to determine what immune mechanisms may be at play if there is a connection between food allergies and MS disease activity.
 
Read More
Read more about managing allergies and MS

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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