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Plant-Based Diet May Offer Protection Against Multiple Sclerosis

Plant-Based Diet May Offer Protection Against Multiple Sclerosis

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  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating autoimmune neurological condition that affects the outer covering of the nerves, brain, and spinal cord of 2.8 million people of all ages globally
  • Healthy microbiome along with a plant-based diet (rich in isoflavone) may offer protection against multiple sclerosis
  • This suggests that isoflavone diet may be protective in the presence of healthy gut bacteria and offers a potential treatment strategy against MS

Combination of plant-based diet (rich in isoflavone) and metabolizing gut bacteria may propose protection against multiple sclerosis as per a study at the University of Iowa Health Care, published in the journal Science Advances.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating autoimmune neurological condition that commonly affects the myelin sheath (outer fatty cover of nerves), brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord.


It results in a range of incapacitating symptoms that differ from one person to another such as unsteadiness, blurred vision, tingling sensations, memory problems, and fatigue. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. The exact causal mechanism is still unclear with no complete cure of the disease.

The Breakthrough Evidence

The progressing research towards the sequence of the disease finds a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Studies designate the role of trillions of the gut microbiome as a potent environmental contributor to multiple sclerosis (MS).

The study author had previously found that the gut microbes of patients with MS and without MS had significant differences between them. However, the exact mechanism through which these gut bacteria might influence the disease is poorly understood.

The Wonder Plant Compound - Isoflavone

A specific plant-based compound called isoflavone - a phytoestrogen (resembles estrogen - protective female reproductive hormone) found in soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, and other legumes demonstrates protection against multiple sclerosis.

However, it is seen that patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) lack a special population of gut microbes that are capable of metabolizing these isoflavones compounds. This may hinder the protective role of isoflavone against MS.

Study on Isoflavone and Healthy microbiome

The present study was done on mice models of the disease to demonstrate the role of the microbiome in MS and its role in metabolizing isoflavone. It was found that the mice that were fed on the isoflavone diet demonstrated a microbiome similar to those found in healthy people (which was capable of metabolizing isoflavones).

On the contrary, diets that did not have isoflavones had shown a trend of microbiome similar to that observed in MS patients, thereby holding an insufficient capability to exhibit beneficial effects of isoflavone metabolization.

Thus the study demonstrates that restoring the gut microbiome may have protection from MS-like inflammation among mice models. This further suggests a protective role of the healthy isoflavone metabolizing microbiome against the disease.

"Interestingly, previous human studies have demonstrated that patients with multiple sclerosis lack these bacteria compared to individuals without MS. Our new study provides evidence that the combination of dietary isoflavones and these isoflavone metabolizing gut bacteria may serve as a potential treatment for MS," says AshutoshMangalam, Ph.D., UI associate professor of pathology, who led the study.

The study thereby layout the fact that an isoflavone diet may be protective in the presence of healthy gut bacteria.

Fact Sheet on Multiple Sclerosis

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) initiated a significant collaborative endeavor to resolve the global epidemiology of MS between 2005 and 2007among 112 countries, representing 87.8% of the world population.
  • Globally, the estimated prevalence of MS is reported to be 30 per 100 000 (with a range of 5-80) and greatest in high-income countries (89 per 100 000), followed by upper-middle (32), lower-middle (10), and low-income countries (0.5).
  • Around 1 million are living with MS in the United States, as per the National MS Society study.
  • The approximated 2010 prevalence of MS in the US adult population cumulated over 10 years was 309.2 per 100,000.
  • The age of onset of MS symptoms is between 25.3 and 31.8 years with an average age being 29.2 years
  • MS is reported to be 2-3 times more common in women than in men, inferring that hormones may also play an important role in defining susceptivity to MS.
  • The frequency of MS varies by geographical region throughout the world, with more commonly affecting the areas farthest from the equator.
  • MS is known to affect most ethnic groups, including African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics/Latinos. However, it is most common amongst Caucasians of northern European ancestry.
  • Worldwide, more than three-quarters of countries face issues for early diagnosis of MS, and 7 out of 10 countries do not have access to disease-modifying therapies

  1. Isoflavone diet ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis through modulation of gut bacteria depleted in patients with multiple sclerosis- (https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/28/eabd4595)
  2. Raise Awareness - (https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness)
  3. About World MS Day - (https://worldmsday.org/about/)

Source: Medindia

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