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    You are here : Home » MS Research News » Diet » Diet And The Immune System

    Diet And The Immune System

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    What you eat and drink may affect your MS

    FoodIf you have multiple sclerosis, will drinking wine make the disease worse? How about smoking? Or eating fish? How do daily choices affect your condition?

    Researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands wanted to take an in-depth look at some of the most common daily life choices, and learn how they affected the progression of disease in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

    The results were maybe not what you'd expect: Alcohol, coffee, and fish consumption reduced the risk of relapsing onset MS patients needing to use a cane to walk. Only smoking increased the risk.

    The research was conducted by the National MS Center in Belgium, the Flemish MS society and the neurological and statistical department from the University of Brussels. Previous studies have suggested that lifestyle factors have an influence on how MS progresses, or worsens, in a patient.

    They surveyed 1372 patients with MS from the Flemish MS society. They answered a questionnaire about their alcohol, coffee, fish, and cigarette intake.

    The researchers were looking for how long it took participants to reach a stage of the disease labeled Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) 6. It means that the patient must use a cane or support to walk a distance of over 100 meters. EDSS 6 is considered a milestone in the progression of MS, and is irreversible.

    The researchers considered how long it took from birth to EDSS 6, and from the onset of the disease to EDSS 6, considering the participants' lifestyle choices.

    They found that the results varied depending on what type of MS the patient had. There are four possible disease courses, including relapsing and progressive MS. Relapsing involves sudden, defined neurological attacks that cause worsening disability and loss of function. Progressive forms of MS means that neurological function is steadily worsening.

    For patients with relapsing MS, higher consumption of fish, alcohol, and coffee was associated with a decreased likelihood that the patient walked with a cane, and smoking increased the risk. The same was true for progressive forms, but interestingly, there was a difference between fatty fish and lean fish.

    Fatty fish is associated with an increased risk to reach EDSS 6, whereas lean fish decreased it.

    The study authors suggested that alcohol has anti-inflammatory properties, and that's why it might slow MS, which is an inflammatory disease. Caffeine might suppress pro-inflammatory elements of the body, but this has not been well studied.

    A diet rich in fish might be suggestive of an overall healthier lifestyle, but the difference between lean and fatty fish for patients with progressive MS can not yet be explained.

    The researchers stop short of suggesting that fish, alcohol, and coffee protect against the progression of disease, but more studies are needed before any firm conclusions can be made.

    The study was published in late November 2011, in the European Journal of Neurology.

    Source: DailyRX Copyright © 2008-2011 Patient Conversation Media, inc. (05/12/11)

    Scientists link diet and immune system

    Diet and the Immune System
    Australian scientists have found a "direct link" between what we eat and how well our immune system operates, a breakthrough that could explain rising rates of autoimmune disease across the western world.

    Professor Charles Mackay, working at Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, identified how fibre in the diet plays a major role in ensuring a person's immune cells function properly.

    His research, published in the prestigious journal Nature, also signals the shift of what had been a fringe concept into the scientific mainstream.

    "This potentially explains all the previous data that no one had taken that seriously," Prof Mackay told AAP.

    "I think it's fair to say the broader immunological research community has never really believed that diet affects immune responses.

    "This does provide a direct link for the way immune cells work with the sort of things we eat."

    Working along with PhD student Kendle Maslowski, Prof Mackay investigated the operation of an immune cell receptor known to bind with "short chain fatty acids" - what fibre is reduced to once processed by bacteria in the gut.

    This broken-down fibre was found to "profoundly affect immune cell function", Prof Mackay said, and without it the immune cells appeared more likely to go awry.

    Autoimmune disease refers to disorders in which a person's immune system mistakenly attacks part of the body, causing inflammation.

    "When (immune cells) go bad they cause inflammatory diseases, so asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis ..." Prof Mackay said.

    "We think one of the mechanisms for their normal control is short chain fatty acids binding to this receptor.

    "And if we were to speculate on the real significance of this, we believe firmly that the best explanation for the increase in inflammatory diseases in western countries ... is our changes in diet."

    A lack of dietary fibre could also be behind the rise in type 1 diabetes, Prof Mackay said.

    The research suggests that having a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds would reduce a person's risk of autoimmune disease.

    It also helped to explain why food supplements that affect the balance of gut bacteria were known to reduce the symptoms of some inflammatory conditions.

    Prof Mackay said dietary fibre, or roughage, was otherwise known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers plus it ensures you will be regular.

    "The role of nutrition ... is an exciting new topic in immunology," he said.

    Commenting on the study, Helen Yates, Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre Chief Executive said, “This is a very important finding in the field of diet and immune systems.  It has long been believed by many people in the MS community that diet has a role to play in the disease and this research represents a first step towards greater investigation of how the food we eat can influence the immune system diseases we develop”

    Source: 9News © 1997-2009 ninemsn Pty Ltd & MSRC (29/10/09)

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