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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Healthy eating can improve MS symptoms, but societies won’t endorse any one diet

Multiple sclerosis organisations around the world back the idea that eating a healthy diet can help people with the disease. But they are refusing, correctly in my view, to get behind any one diet.

dietA new study, published in Neurology, says that eating a healthy diet may be linked with reduced disability and fewer MS symptoms. Such a diet would include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

I have never attributed any importance to people saying that diet cured them of MS. In fact, it’s nothing short of hogwash. But that’s not to say that diet cannot help, just that it is not a cure by itself.

There are a number of dietary plans for which claims are sometimes made, and about which strong views are held. These include the Swank and Overcoming MS diets. Supporters of Swank, for example, believe it can reduce the frequency of flare-ups and lessen the severity of symptoms.

However, the US’s National MS Society and the UK’s MS Society say there is not enough evidence to recommend any one diet.

The authors of the new study, led by Kathryn C. Fitzgerald, acknowledges that there is a lack of evidence on the potential influence that diet may have on MS symptoms.

Fitzgerald works in the Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. She says: “People with MS often ask if there is anything they can do to delay or avoid disability. Many people want to know if their diet can play a role, but there have been few studies investigating this.”

Severe disability 20% less likely

To examine the role that diet may play in MS, Fitzgerald’s team looked at questionnaires completed by 6,989 people with MS as part of the North American Research Committee registry.

The team found that people in the group with the most healthy diet were 20% less likely to have more severe physical disability than people in the group with the least healthy diet.

Fitzgerald adds: “While this study does not determine whether a healthy lifestyle reduces MS symptoms or whether having severe symptoms makes it harder for people to engage in a healthy lifestyle, it provides evidence for the link between the two.”

The authors acknowledged that the study has two limitations:

·         First, participants were mostly older white people who had been diagnosed with MS for an average of 20 years. So, although people with all types of MS were included, the findings might not apply to everyone with the disease.

·         Second, the study’s design does not provide an insight into whether healthy diets might influence MS symptoms in the future.

What can a diet do for someone with MS? In my opinion, about the same as it can do for someone without the disease; a balanced diet helps to achieve and maintain a healthy level of fitness. But it is not a cure and never can be; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Missing Pieces: Missing too much to be meaningful

missing pieces

While I hate to decry any research connected to multiple sclerosis, I feel that this is one of those times. I cannot stay quiet.

A new report says 25% people with MS in the UK don’t know about treatments that may help delay disability. And that’s despite most of them saying disability is their big concern.

But, although the report talks about massive percentages backing up supposed `facts’, those figures gloss over a big problem. The size of the research sample is pathetic.

The MS Society estimates there are 107,000 people with MS in the UK, but the sample size was just 100. Absolutely ridiculous. Additionally, the researchers also surveyed 120 neurologists.

According to CheckMarket, a leading cloud-based survey software solution with more than 10,000 users in 150 countries, the sample size needed to be nearly 2,350.

Apparently, the report was funded by Sanofi Genzyme and conducted by Adelphi Research UK. It is titled The Missing Pieces though, as far as I can see, the main thing missing was a big enough sample.

Only 100 people gave their views, so any percentage given cannot be scaled up to purportedly represent the views of 107,000 people.

It is a great shame really, as the research results would be worth considering if the sample was large enough and was truly representative. But it was neither. Also, online questionnaires are not the best way to obtain a representative sample.

‘Missing Pieces’ misses target

The organizers claim that The Missing Pieces campaign aims to explore attitudes and behaviors around MS treatment in the UK, and to identify gaps in knowledge, understanding, conversations, and treatment/care plans.

Sad to say, because they didn’t plan well enough, their efforts have failed to reach that aim in any meaningful way.

Bearing in mind my warning that the views of 100 people are unlikely to be meaningful, here are its major findings:

  • Around three-quarters of healthcare practitioner think MS patients face delays in beginning DMTs. They blame poor access to neurologists with MS specialities. This is despite the fact that disability prevention is a key goal of the country’s National Health Service. An MS neurologist is needed to start a patient on such treatment
  • 45% of patients said their primary healthcare specialist was an MS nurse. And 20% reported turning most to general practitioners
  • Among all patients surveyed, 36% said they had not seen a neurologist in the past 12 months
  • 50% of patients said they discussed disability with a doctor or nurse at the time of diagnosis. Yet only 34% reported having continuous conversations on disability during subsequent visits
  • 69% of healthcare practitioners reported “routinely discussing” disability with patients around the time of diagnosis
  • Among patients, only 22% reported discussing treatment goals with a healthcare practitioner
  • 45% of patients said they were “scared” they would be disabled

Sanofi Genzyme is the specialty care unit of Sanofi. It markets Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), and Aubagio (teriflunomide), both for use by people with relapsing-remitting MS.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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