Exploring the role of diet in the progression of MS 

A new research project could shed light on how diet is linked to disease progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).  

It’s estimated that 40 per cent of adults with MS make changes to their diet after diagnosis – but much of the available dietary advice is contradictory, confusing, and not based on scientific evidence. 

Professor Lucinda Black, through a US National Multiple Sclerosis Society Research Grant, hopes to give more clarity and certainty to people with MS about the influence of diet on the disease.  

“Emerging evidence suggests that diet may play a role in MS onset and progression, but it’s not clear whether any specific dietary patterns, foods or nutrients could be beneficial for people with MS,” Professor Black said. 

Professor Black and her research team will use information from an Australian study which followed 200 people with MS for 15 years from onset.  

The study provides access to dietary information from food frequency questionnaires of people with MS, as well as stored blood samples to measure levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

The researchers will use the food frequency questionnaire to examine several factors, including whether participants followed a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet; their consumption of ultra-processed foods, fish, meat, dairy, coffee; and antioxidant intake.  

Stored blood samples will be measured for vitamins such as B12, E and A, folate, riboflavin, biotin, carotenoids and minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium, selenium and iron. Advanced statistical methods will be used to link these dietary factors with measures of disease progression, such as relapse rate, lesions, disability, and blood levels of neurofilament light chain, which is a novel blood marker of disease progression. 

“People with MS are often frustrated by the lack of evidence-based dietary information specific to MS. Reliable information on the role of diet in MS is a high priority to help them improve their disease outcomes,” Professor Black said. 

The study findings will generate evidence to help develop dietary guidelines tailored for people with MS