Text Size: a  |   a 

The Search for the Perfect Multiple Sclerosis Diet

November 7, 2016

Despite a wide, systematic literature review, researchers behind a new study cited a “poor evidence base” as an obstacle in trying to find a teachable, beneficial dietary plan for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Led by Karin Riemann-Lorenz of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, the team’s report of their attempt to educate MS patients on diet and the disease was published recently in PLOS.

Their review of existing information included a German study of over 1500 patients that showed 41% of people with MS attempted dietary modification, and an Australian study of over 400 people had found that 63% reported using dietary supplements or following special recommendations.  Though they cited studies that examined polyunsaturated fatty acids in MS which “do not seem to have major clinical effects on disease progression, but may be associated with a tendency in reduction of frequency of relapses over two years”, and also small studies that evaluated vitamin D supplementation, they deemed most existing evidence insufficient to draw conclusions.

The researchers conducted a survey of 337 people with MS and 136 controls to determine knowledge, attitudes, and dietary habits among the population, combined with socioeconomic information and disease status. Though socioeconomic factors were similar between the afflicted and the controls, those with MS were typically older.

About 60% of those with MS believed diet could play a major role in their disease course. Among them, the Mediterranean Diet, high in fish and fruits and low in fats, was significantly more popular than in the control group (29% to 14%). 73% of respondents hoped to use a better diet to slow MS progression. Three quarters of those with MS reported use of one or more of a host of dietary supplements, including multivitamins, vitamins C, D, E, folate, and various B vitamins. Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids were markedly more prevalent among those with MS than controls (62% to 40% and 67% to 31%, respectively).

With the limited background they’d gathered and the results of their survey, the team attempted to formulate a 2-hour pilot educational program, but the outcome was disappointing. Very little of the information was believed by the small group of 13 participants to be new, though they found it comprehensible. “The absence of controlled studies for broad dietary approaches leaves patients and caregivers largely clueless and might also have added to the lack of satisfaction with the education program,” the authors wrote.

Much has been said about the “paleo” diet being the diet that MS patients should follow, due to the fact that it features a good amount of green vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids and organ meats. Organ meats contain a high amount of vitamins and minerals, which many patients have found beneficial.