Food and Behaviour Research

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Dietary Intake and the Effect on Disease Progression in People with Multiple Sclerosis

Meier-Gerdingh E, Fitzgerald K , Gold R , Hellwig K (2019) 71st AAN ANNUAL MEETING ABSTRACT   

Web URL: Read the abstract here



People with multiple sclerosis (MS) are at increased risk of metabolic disorders. Diet is an important determinant of metabolic comorbidity in the general population and influences mechanisms implicated in MS (e.g. immune function, oxidative stress, the gut microbiota). However, studies investigating the effects of diet on disease progression are limited.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of people with MS who completed a 102-item food frequency questionnaire and received a neurologic exam. For each individual, we calculated the DietaryApproaches-to-Stop-Hypertension (DASH) score, which is a composite measure of dietary quality favorably weighting an individual’s intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, whole-grains and dairy, and unfavorably weighting intake of sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and red and processed meats.

Scores ranged from 8 (poorest quality) to 40 (highest quality). We assessed the association between overall DASH scores and DASH component foods/nutrients and disability status (via Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS]) categorized as mildto-moderate (EDSS:<6) and severe (EDSS:≥6) using logistic regression models adjusting for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), smoking and symptom duration.


We analyzed cross-sectional data from 135 participants (73% female, mean age: 44.6y [standard deviation; SD:13.9y], mean BMI: 24.5[SD:5.3]) who underwent dietary assessments and a neurologic exam; 30 individuals had severe disability.

Overall DASH scores were not associated with disability status. With respect to individual DASH-score components, individuals in the highest quartile of SSB intake had higher risk of severe vs. mild-to-moderate disability (OR: 5.01; 95% CI: 1.03-24.37; P for trend=0.01). Other components were not associated with disability status.


While overall diet quality was not associated with disability status in this preliminary study, we observed potential association between SSBs and higher disability status in MS patients. Longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate if diet impacts future disability.


See the associated press release:

For more articles on nutrition and diet in relation to Multiple Sclerosis (many of which are also relevant to other auto-immune or neurological disorders), see also: