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Study of Kids with MS Links Eating More Fatty Foods to Higher Risk of Relapse, and More Vegetables to Lower Risk

October 11, 2017

SUMMARY
  • Investigators with the Network of Pediatric MS Centers report findings that children and adolescents with MS who ate more fatty foods were at increased risk of relapse, while those who ate more vegetables were at lower risk.  
  • These findings are associations, and do not prove that these dietary factors caused or protected against relapses. To further understand how diet may impact the course of MS in children and adolescents with MS, the National MS Society is supporting a more comprehensive study by this team.
  • This study, funded by the National MS Society and the National Institutes of Health, was published early online on October 9, 2017 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 
DETAILS
Background: The course and severity of MS can vary greatly between individuals. It is not yet known what triggers disease activity or relapses, and there is no way to predict an individual’s disease course. Investigators with the Network of Pediatric MS Centers, established with funding from the National MS Society, have been conducting a study of possible risk factors that lead to pediatric MS. They are taking advantage of that study to look at factors involved with disease activity in children and adolescents who already have established disease. The study is led by Emmanuelle Waubant, MD (University of California, San Francisco).
 
The Study: The investigators enrolled kids who had lived with MS for no more than four years. After enrollment, the children or their caregivers responded to a questionnaire about the types and amounts of food eaten over the past week. The questionnaire included estimates of energy (calories), fats, vegetables, and other foods and beverages. Then the investigators monitored the 219 participants for disease activity. The outcome of the study focused on the time from enrollment to the next MS relapse.
 
The investigators found that higher amounts of fat in the diet were associated with increased risk for an MS relapse. They also found that higher amounts of vegetables in the diet were associated with decreased risk for an MS relapse.
 
The study, funded by the National MS Society and the National Institutes of Health, was published early online on October 9, 2017 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 
 
Conclusions: These findings -- of a potentially harmful impact of fats and potentially beneficial impact of vegetables -- are associations, and do not prove that these dietary factors caused or protected against relapses. This team is about to launch a larger study, funded by the National MS Society, to further understand how diet may impact the course of MS in children and adolescents with MS. And in the meantime, eating a diet lower in saturated fats and higher in vegetables aligns with general guidelines for healthful eating.
 
Read More
Read more about diet and nutrition in MS
Read more about the Network of Pediatric MS Centers

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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