A recent study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neuroscience & Psychiatry, suggests that diets heavy in fat can increase the risk of relapse in children with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Multiple Sclerosis News Today reports that in the study, titled “Contribution of dietary intake to relapse rate in early paediatric multiple sclerosis,” researchers specifically examined children’s diets, as children with MS are more likely to relapse than adults who have the disease.
The study assessed 219 patients from 11 different pediatric MS centers across the United States. The patients all had relapsing-remitting MS or clinically isolated syndrome (since clinically isolated syndrome can develop into MS), had been diagnosed before turning 18 years old, and had the disease for less than 4 years. The researchers used a questionnaire called the Block Kids Food Screener to assess dietary intake in the participants during the week before enrollment.
After tracking the children for about two years, ultimately they found that relapses occurred in 42.5 percent of the group.
Based off of their findings, researchers argued that a fat-heavy diet definitely had a role to play: each 10 percent increase in energy intake from fat increased the risk of a child experiencing a relapse by 56 percent. High consumption of saturated fats even tripled the hazard.
However, a good result from the study was the positive impact of a diet comprised largely of vegetables. Each one cup equivalent of vegetables lowered the chance of relapse by 50 percent.
While the associations were certainly strong, researchers acknowledged that the study did not definitively prove that high amounts of fat in one’s diet causes relapses. Still, they argued that it could still certainly have a role in certain disease processes. For example, a large amount of fat intake incites the release of molecules that promote inflammation, while vegetables decrease the likelihood of inflammation.
From a personal note, a dear friend’s father has MS, and one of the biggest positive impacts on his life was a change in diet. By decreasing his intake of fatty and sugary foods, and making an effort to eat healthier, he saw a marked improvement in his general health.
The term “fat” often tends to encompass a wide range of meanings, though most colloquially it is used to describe foods that are “bad for us.” This is not always the case, of course–fish oil, for example, is technically a fat, but by all means it is not unhealthy. The challenge that this study corroborates is to moderate the intake of certain kinds of fats. Considering the study’s findings of a dramatic increase in risk of relapse associated with saturated fats, which are often found in foods such as red meats, butter, fried food, and other whole milk dairy products, it may be helpful to regulate saturated fats.
Hopefully, in the future we will see more studies like this one that will examine and help clearly define the long-term impacts of diet’s role on MS.
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