Eating a diet of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and less red meat has long been shown to be a recipe for better health. A new study suggests this diet may also help reduce painful symptoms for people who have multiple sclerosis.
MS is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. The symptoms include vision loss, pain, fatigue and impaired coordination. People with MS often ask care providers if there is anything they can do to delay or avoid disability, and researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine decided to explore whether diet could play a role.
Their study involved 6,989 people with MS who completed questionnaires about their lifestyles. In results published in the journal Neurology, the team found those who adhered to a healthy diet were about 20 percent less likely to have more physical disability, nearly 50 percent less likely to have depression, 30 percent less likely to have fatigue and more than 40 percent less likely to have pain.
The results were true even after the researchers adjusted for factors that could affect disability, such as age and how long the respondents have had MS.
A healthy lifestyle was defined as having a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, and eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and low amounts of sugar from desserts and sweetened drinks. Also, the diet includes having low amount of red meats and processed meats.
The researchers cautioned that while the study can’t say for sure that a healthy lifestyle reduces MS symptoms, it provides evidence for a link between the two — and a bit of hope for those dealing with the condition.