Cognitive problems are very common in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and they often get worse over time, even when disease-modifying therapies are used to treat MS. Individuals with MS are keen to learn about proactive measures they may take to enhance their quality of life.
A preliminary study published today suggests that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who adhere to a Mediterranean diet may have a lower risk for memory and thinking skills issues than those who do not.
Low intakes of dairy products, meats, and saturated fats are part of the Mediterranean diet, which also includes a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil.
“It’s exciting to see that we may be able to help people living with MS maintain better cognition by eating a Mediterranean diet,” remarks study author Ilana Katz Sand.
There were 563 MS patients in the trial. People filled out a survey to show how closely they stuck to the Mediterranean diet. According to how carefully they followed the regimen, they were given a score from 0 to 14.
After that, individuals were sorted into four groups according to their diet scores, with the lowest group receiving a score of 0 to 4 and the top group receiving a score of 9 or above.
Three tests measuring participants’ memory and cognitive abilities were also administered. A score of less than the fifth percentile on two or three of the tests was considered to indicate cognitive impairment.
Overall, there were 108 cases of cognitive impairment (19%).
According to the study, those who adhered more strictly to the Mediterranean diet had a 20% reduced chance of cognitive impairment than those who did not.
Cognitive impairment was seen in 43 of 133 persons (34%) in the group with the lowest diet score, but only 13 of 103 people (13%) in the group with the highest diet score.
People with progressive MS, in which the disease gets steadily worse over time, had a stronger link than those with relapsing-remitting MS, in which the disease flares up and then goes away for a while.
Katz Sand emphasized that it was significant that the findings held true even after careful accounting for other variables such socioeconomic status, smoking, body mass index, high blood pressure, and exercise that may influence the risk of cognitive impairment.
Katz Sand adds: “Among health-related factors, the level of dietary alignment with the Mediterranean pattern was by far the strongest predictor of people’s cognitive scores and whether they met the study criteria for cognitive impairment.”
She stressed the need of well-designed interventional clinical trials and extended investigations that follow patients over time to verify the findings. One of the study’s limitations was that tests were administered just once.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Irma T. Hirschl/Monique Weill-Caulier Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health all provided funding for the research.
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 75th Annual Meeting being held in person in Boston and live online from April 22-27, 2023.
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