Managing multiple sclerosis (MS) can involve taking specific medications and going through particular treatments, according to the Mayo Clinic. At the same time, those who deal with the disease may also want to ensure that their eating habits are beneficial to their health and don’t have unexpected harmful effects. That’s why people with MS may want to stick to the Mediterranean diet as opposed to other options, according to new research.
In a systematic review published in Nutritional Neuroscience, researchers were hoping to figure out which diet was most beneficial for those with MS. After initially considering a total of 269 studies that all took place between 2018–2022, they ended up taking a closer look at 17 studies.
The researchers’ review found that energy-restricted diets, intermittent fasting diets, the ketogenic diet, and modified paleolithic diet could cause nutrient deficiencies if used long-term. However, it was also noted that the Mediterranean diet didn’t seem to cause any adverse side effects even when used over a lengthy period of time.
“The findings of this study further confirm the restrictive nature of the many supposedly ‘healthy’ diets out there that people follow for various reasons,” Kiran Campbell, RD, tells Eat This, Not That!
“[However,] the great thing about this study is that it shows yet another health condition that may benefit from following a Mediterranean-type diet,” Campbell adds.
“Some people may have heard that those with MS should avoid gluten or follow a high-protein and low-carb diet (keto) to help reduce symptoms,” Campbell explains. “While this may help some reduce symptoms, these diets are not endorsed as a one-size-fits-all diet for those suffering from multiple sclerosis. At least not in the same way that a consistent carbohydrate diet is prescribed for someone who is diabetic. And these diets should not be followed on a long-term basis due to the possible nutrient deficiencies that could result.”
When it comes to why the Mediterranean diet might be the best long-term option for those with MS, Campbell says that among other benefits, it “promotes long-term health of the central nervous system.”
“[Although the] majority of current research on this diet focuses mainly on the cardiovascular benefits, studies also show benefits to those with diabetes, cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, mental disorders, depression, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and certain types of cancer,” Campbell continues.
“While there is no ‘MS diet,’ the ongoing research continues to work toward pinpointing dietary approaches to manage and treat MS,” Campbell says. “Overall, the Mediterranean diet is one that is anti-inflammatory and able to promote health in those with multiple diseases and conditions.”
“The Mediterranean diet is by no means an answer,” Campell explains. “[But] these findings are promising.” Additionally, Campbell advises that “you should always work in conjunction with your healthcare providers and take a multi-factorial approach to your MS.”
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