MS Patients May Benefit from a Plant-Based Diet

A pilot study published in Frontiers in Immunology found a balanced, plant-based, high-vegetable diet could fight inflammation in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The study included 20 MS patients, aged 40 to 52, with relapsing-remitting MS—a type of MS that includes alternating periods of flare-ups and recovery. The participants were selected based on their dietary pattern over the previous 12-month period. Ten of the participants were following a high-vegetable/low-protein diet that included fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and extra virgin olive oil; very limited intake of poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products; low intake of refined cereals, salt, sugar, and fried food; and no alcohol, red meat, saturated fats from animal sources, or trans-fats. The other ten participants were following a Western diet that included regular consumption of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, sweetened food, salt, and an overall high intake of saturated and omega-6 fatty acids. For 12 months, nutritionists verified adherence to the two dietary patterns via face-to-face interviews conducted every four months. Using data from blood tests, stool analyses, and neurological examinations performed at the beginning and end of the study, researchers found that:

  • Compared to those eating a Western diet, the intestinal bacterial communities (microbiomes) of those eating a high-vegetable/low-protein diet included higher numbers of bacteria associated with anti-inflammatory immune activity.
  • Nine of the ten participants eating a Western diet had clinical relapses during the study period, while only three of the ten participants eating a high-vegetable/low-protein diet had relapses.
  • Those eating a high-vegetable/low-protein diet had lower MS disability scores than those eating a Western diet.

These findings indicate a balanced diet that is high in vegetables and low in protein—particularly animal protein—may help MS patients decrease flare-ups and extend periods of remission. They also suggest this benefit may be related to positive diet-induced changes in the gut microbiome. If these results are confirmed by future research, they will add to a growing body of evidence showing that components of a good diet reduce immune inflammatory activity in part by altering the gut microbiome. Although there is more to learn about the relationships between foods, gut bacteria, and inflammation in people with MS, it’s safe to say veggie-loading and reducing animal protein is a smart choice.

Source: Frontiers in Immunology

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