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This Pilot Study is Testing If Mediterranean Diet Can Help MS Patients

February 27, 2018

New York researchers are conducting a study of whether the Mediterranean diet can assist in reducing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and overall improving patients’ quality of life.

Many people with MS try to eat well in to maintain their health. After all, you must feed your body the nutrients it needs, especially when living with an autoimmune disease. A poor diet can create complications with one’s energy levels, bladder and bowel health, and possibly shift the immune system to a better or worsened inflammatory state. 

Studies have suggested that certain types of gut bacteria contribute to the worsening of MS, therefore a change of diet can also change the composition of gut bacteria.

The Mediterranean diet mainly eliminates meat, dairy products and processed foods, and consists of mostly fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and avocados. It is expected to generate changes in patients’ biological parameters like levels of lipids and carotenoids in blood, as well as salt in urine—these will be the markers being measured by researchers throughout the study.

Dr. Ilana B. Katz Sand, assistant professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is leading the research of the study. She also participated in a study that suggests those with MS have higher levels of gut bacteria in which trigger inflammatory responses and fewer anti-inflammatory bacteria.

Nutritionists promote a variety of different diets that would be best for those with MS, although there is no solid evidence to support one over another.

Researchers are only now starting to explore in a more comprehensive way how dietary changes can benefit MS patients; designing these trials to test the factors is quite the challenge.

Sand’s team aims to comprehend the role in which the diet and gut bacteria play with one another in the overall inflammation and nerve cell degeneration seen in autoimmune disorders like MS. Their pilot trial is assessing if the Mediterranean diet can improve MS patients’ quality of life, which is expected to be completed in April.

Thirty-six MS patients were enrolled in the study; 18 were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet for six months while the others stayed with their usual diet. A nutritionist meets with the group monthly in order to provide the patients with menu suggestions, recipes and tips.

Researchers will also be observing changes in body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels and the effect these factors have on the overall health of a patient. They will also analyze bacteria in fecal specimens and doing immunological profiling with blood samples, which will help them learn more about other mechanisms involved in dietary effects.

The team will be using quality-of-life questionnaires and neuropsychological tests to assess wellness, fatigue, depression and cognition.

The team says they believe it may be possible one day to offer MS patients a gut bacteria-based therapy.