A famous quote attributed to the Father of Western Medicine, Hippocrates, illuminates the importance of diet in disease treatment. For those who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), modern science might be ready to confirm what Hippocrates already knew.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates
A recent study released by Neurology , a peer-reviewed neurology journal, may confirm Hippocrates’ philosophy. But up until now, nutrition and its role in disease management has not been studied much — but this study found that a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains had a measurable positive affect on disability and disease severity in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. You can read more about the results of this study here.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological disease. Patients who develop MS have sustained damage in their nerves that inhibits communication between the brain and the various parts of the body. In this case, the protective sheath around the nerves, called myelin, has been attacked by the patient’s own body. The myelin, which is like the insulation around a wire, turns into scar tissue due to the disease and the ability of the nerve to carry the message is compromised.
Diet Might be the Answer
The way that MS affects patients varies from individual to individual. Some patients have symptoms that are barely noticeable and they don’t even take treatment for it. There is a continuum of patients who are debilitated by the disease in various degrees and have many tries and failures in their treatment history. It makes sense to investigate any theory that might lead to improved emotional scores and less physical disability.
The survey was large and included over 6,900 patients from the NARCOMS registry. NARCOMS is a global patient registry that uses a database to document an individual’s experience with MS. This database is made available to researchers working on projects to assist the MS community.
The survey, called “Diet quality is associated with disability and symptom severity in multiple sclerosis” by Kathryn C. Fitzgerald, ScD, et al. was designed to quantify, the effects, if any, from patients who ate a high quality diet versus those whose dietary options were of lower quality. Researchers gave high scores to those patients whose diet consisted mostly of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Those patients whose meal plans consisted of sugar, red meat and processed foods received lower scores.
“As diet and other lifestyle factors are modifiable, they offer a promising, safe avenue to ameliorate MS-associated symptoms and influence
— Fitzgerald and colleagues concluded
Patients with the best food quality in their diet were 20% less likely to have depression and/or a physical disability when they were studied against those with poorest quality food in their diet.
Further examining the data is going to be very important. For instance, the causality for the difference in outcomes between the groups has not been explained. Does the dietary differences account for the reduction in emotional and physical issues or do the sicker patients with more symptoms simply have a more difficult time in managing improvements in exercise and in planning healthy meals?
In the final analysis, however, researchers found that a healthy diet and lifestyle can most likely assist MS patients in reducing their physical and emotional disabilities that are at the core of an improved standard of living for patients of this progressive disease.