New Study Explores if Diet Can Influence Onset of MS


From the cohort study, 67 participants developed Multiple Sclerosis after enrollment.

There are more than 15,0000 people with MS in the UK, and approximately 7,100 people are newly diagnosed each year. In fact, past research has shown that 8-11 new cases of MS are diagnosed each year in England per 100,000 population, with women outnumbering men two to one.

Now, a new journal study in Nutrients, published on June 2, 2024, looked to find an answer to whether diet influences the onset of multiple sclerosis.

The study was led by Camilla Barbero Mazzucca and Lorenza Scotti, both in the department of health sciences, Interdisciplinary Research Center of Autoimmune Diseases-IRCAD at the Università del Piemonte Orientale in Novara, Italy.

The study cohort was comprised of 502,507 people between 40–69 years, living in England, Wales or Scotland. A letter went out to each in 2006 asking if they were interested in participating, and the main phase of the study occurred in the preceding four years.
After accounting for exclusions, a final cohort of 499,563 subjects—478 identified as incident MS cases—made up the grouping.

In the study, the researchers utilized the UK Biobank database to investigate the role of diet in MS onset by using a multi-faceted approach. All enrolled subjects were assessed initially to determine whether single-food items were associated with disease onset, revealing a protective role of moderate fish and alcohol consumption.

The study participants completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) which included pertinent information about their diet. From there, National Health Service (NHS) records from England, Scottish Morbidity Records, and the Patient Episode Database for Wales were used to assess MS diagnoses and outcomes.

From the cohort, 67 subjects developed MS after enrollment.

Consistent with other studies, the Mediterranean diet was shown to preventing non-communicable diseases; an inverse association between weekly alcohol consumption and MS risk was observed; and moderate fish consumption, particularly eating oily fish once a week, was associated with a slightly better protective effect against MS incidence than more frequent intake.

“According to our knowledge, this is the first study that has prospectively investigated the role of single nutrients in MS onset in the UK Biobank cohort,” Mazzucca said. “Moreover, by means of a validated approach, we exploited the 24 h recall data to estimate the adherence to the MD, providing new insights into the role of complex dietary patterns, instead of single foods, in disease onset.”

By using the data to address the role of diet in MS onset, the researchers believe it will prove helpful in building evidence-based indications for MS prevention and management.

“Moreover, given the heterogeneity of disease subtypes and the existence of different MS phenotypes, the application of this pipeline on other study cohorts, in which the number of incident cases is enough to permit further stratifications, may lead to new insights useful for personalizing dietary approaches in the context of precision nutrition,” the researchers concluded.

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