What You Eat and Drink Affects Your MS

Multiple sclerosis effected by alcohol coffee smoking and fish

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If 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.

"If you have MS, consider what you eat, drink, and smoke."

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.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 1, 2011
Last Updated:
December 4, 2011