April 26, 2018 | News | Living with MSMS Research

Paleo diet, fish and MS

Report from the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, Los Angeles CA, April 21-27, 2018 – One of the first things that many people with multiple sclerosis do after they are diagnosed is think about changing their diet. This was the finding of a new survey in the U.S., which had 203 people fill out questionnaires in the year after their diagnosis (Wang and colleagues. AAN 2018; abstract P2.361).

The researchers found that almost one-half of the group expressed an interest in diet within the first month of their diagnosis. Within the first 6 months, 50% of people had made some changes to what they ate. Within 9 months, 42% had sought out dietary advice – from either a physician, a nutritionist or a naturopath. The most common diets people tried were gluten-free, the paleolithic diet, and vegetarian. Most also took vitamins, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, a multivitamin, or fish oil.

The paleolithic diet was inspired by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and avoids foods that originated in the later, Neolithic (agricultural) era. So meats, seafood, raw vegetables, fruits and nuts are acceptable, while processed foods, dairy products, grains, sugar and alcohol are not.

A new study investigated whether the paleo diet helped to relieve fatigue in people with progressive MS (Ramanathan and colleagues. AAN 2018; abstract P2.358). After one year, there was significant weight loss with the diet, and improvements in people’s cholesterol profile. Interestingly, increases in HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) were accompanied by improvements in MS fatigue. It wasn’t determined if HDL cholesterol was directly related to fatigue, or whether weight loss and a general health improvement translate to less fatigue.

One of the anomalies of multiple sclerosis is that MS is less common and less severe among people living in seaside communities, who consume more fish. So a group of researchers analysed a health insurance database to examine the link between MS and fish consumption (Langer-Gould and colleagues. AAN 2018; abstract S44 002). For the purposes of the study, high fish consumption was defined as eating fish more than once a week, or 1-3 servings per month along with fish oil supplements. The analysis showed that greater fish consumption was associated with a 45% lower risk of developing MS. A further finding was that genes involved in regulating omega-3 metabolism also had a significant impact on the development of MS. The researchers concluded that omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish and often used as a food additive) appeared to affect the development of MS, which may indicate that omega-3 may provide some benefit in people with MS.

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