The risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) increases with several genetic and environmental factors like the previous infection with Epstein Barr virus, exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke, and low vitamin D levels.
‘Consuming a cup of vegetables reduces the risk of relapse by halve in children and young people, independent of their fat consumption.’
The risk of relapse in children with multiple sclerosis is higher when compared to adults. Hence, the research team analyzed the impact of diet in this age group.
Children with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
The diets of about 219 kids and young people from 11 children multiple sclerosis centers across the USA were analyzed by the research team.
Every child was diagnosed before the age of 18 and was found to have the relapsing-remitting form of MS, otherwise known as the clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). CIS is the first episode of neurological symptoms that are linked to the disease, for under four years.
In this study, every child and young person were given a validated questionnaire (Block Kids Food Screener). The questions were based on the quantity and frequency of specific foods and drinks, which they have consumed over a period of one week. Later, their neurological health was also tracked by the research team until the occurrence of next relapse.
On an average, the participants were monitored for just under two years, and during this period it was found that 93 of them (42.5%) had a relapse.
Findings of the Study
The research team analyzed the questionnaire and found that for every time a child or young person had a 10 percent increase in calorie intake that was derived from fat was linked to a 56 percent heightened risk of a relapse in children.
For every 10 percent increase in calories from the saturated fat was found to be linked to triple the risk of a relapse.
On the other hand, consuming a cup of vegetables was halved the risk of relapse in children and young people, independent of their fat consumption.
Factors such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, weight (BMI), duration of disease, and drug treatment had also been taken into account along with vitamin D levels. Other nutrients like iron, fiber; fruits and sugars were not related to relapse risk, reveals the study.
Dietary Recommendations for Children with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
A high-fat diet can boost cell metabolisms such as releasing inflammatory chemicals, influencing the gut bacteria and immunity, explained the research team.
Animal fat is often associated with a high-calorie intake, which plays a major role in various long-term inflammatory conditions. Whereas a diet that is rich in vegetables has an opposite effect on the children and young people, reveal the research team.
This is an observational study so that no firm conclusions can be made about the causes and effects. Besides, the questionnaire given to them inquired about their dietary habits for one week, and the intake of alcohol or coffee were not asked, which could have boosted the calorie intake among the 18 and 19 years old young people.
However, the results provide specific preliminary evidence, which aids in making dietary recommendations for children or young adults with MS.
Dr. Kathryn Fitzgerald of John Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore in a linked editorial has emphasized on caution for an observational study that is relied on food frequency questionnaires, which are not sufficient in describing the different types of fat. For example, fish oil could be relevant for MS and can probably be efficient on a long-term diet than a diet that is short-term.
"Ultimately, the role of diet in MS is an actively evolving area of research that will be further enriched by complementary evidence derived from a combination of interventional as well as high quality longitudinal observational studies," concluded Dr. Kathryn Fitzgerald.
- Saeedeh Azary, Teri Schreiner, Jennifer Graves, et al. Contribution of dietary intake to relapse rate in early paediatric multiple sclerosis. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (2017).DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2017-315936
- Kathryn Fitzgerald. Diet and disease modification in multiple sclerosis: a nutritional epidemiology perspective. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (2017).DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2017-316375