Learn more. Vitamin D – Research is increasingly pointing to a reduced level of vitamin D in the blood as a risk factor for developing MS, and studies are underway to determine if vitamin D levels influence MS disease activity. The National MS Society has led the way in this research, funding early preclinical studies, convening a summit on this topic, and now funding a clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation. Salt — Several reports suggest that dietary salt can speed the development of an MS-like disease in mice, and provide new insights on immune system activity involved in MS. While more research needs to be done to confirm a role for salt in triggering MS, or to determine whether reducing salt can inhibit MS immune attacks, these studies pinpoint new avenues for strategies that can decrease MS attacks. These studies were funded in part by the National MS Society, and the Society is now funding further research that explores how salt affects the immune system in humans. Antioxidants — these natural or manmade substances are found in many foods. In MS, the immune system damages and destroys myelin, the material that surrounds and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Nerve fibers themselves are damaged as well, which appears to drive long-term disability.
Some experts believe a low-fat vegan diet is helpful for people with multiple sclerosis. One study has tested that theory. A vegan diet contains only plant-based foods and includes no foods of animal origin — no meat, fish, dairy products, or eggs. About half adhered to a very-low-saturated-fat, plant-based eating plan called the McDougall diet, which permits fruits, vegetables, and starchy plant foods such as beans, bread, corn, potatoes, and rice, while prohibiting meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. The diet is promoted by John McDougall, MD, a well-known and at times controversial advocate of the diet as a way to cure or prevent many illnesses. His foundation helped fund the study. While following a low-fat, plant-based diet resulted in no significant improvement on brain MRIs, MS relapse rates, or disability scores among participants, the study did find some potential benefits, including weight loss, less fatigue, and improved quality of life. Cooper was assigned to the control group of the OHSU study, which means she did not follow the diet during the study, but once it ended, she attended a training session on the McDougall diet and transformed her eating habits. Now that she chooses low-fat vegan meals, she says, her fatigue is all but gone and she has enough energy to manage her home and work life. Those who followed the diet lost an average of 16 pounds, the researchers say. Newer research also suggests that obesity and high cholesterol could influence the progression of MS, Yadav says.
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