Medical Moment: Mediterranean diet could help alleviate MS symptoms, research says

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 5:44 PM EST
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(WNDU) - As many as 1,000,000 American adults are living with multiple sclerosis.

It’s a disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information throughout the body. Medication can treat the symptoms, but right now, there is no cure.

Now, clinicians are studying the impact of a special diet on people living with the disease.

Melissa Goodman was in her late twenties working as an executive producer for a New York City music company. But late nights and long hours became too much.

“When you can barely walk, it’s, like, really hard to kind of put on the face,” Goodman recalled.

At just 29, Goodman had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Symptoms appeared almost out of the blue.

“I went numb from my waist down, kind of quickly, so it was pretty scary,” Goodman said.

Goodman took medications to keep symptoms at bay. She had two healthy pregnancies but then struggled with MS-related complications after each.

“I lost my vision in each eye, but separately, one after my son and one after my daughter,” Goodman explained.

Goodman’s vision returned, and with it, so did a commitment to improving her health.

“We have had increasing levels of evidence over the past few years showing us that we think diet is important,” said Ilana Katz-Sand, MD, a neurologist at Mount Sinai.

Dr. Katz-Sand and her colleagues are studying the effects of the Mediterranean diet on people with MS. It’s a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, and olive oil.

“The more their diet looks like a Mediterranean diet, the lower their scores were in terms of MS-related disability across the board,” Dr. Katz-Sand said.

Goodman is following a Mediterranean-style diet with lots of vegetables, fish, and lean meats. She says it’s making a difference.

“If I eat ground meat, or, you know, a ribeye or something that’s fatty, I have a hard time with my legs after,” Goodman said.

Finding healthy ways to keep symptoms at bay.

Patients in the study had better mobility and cognition on tests, and reported feeling better overall.

The next step would be testing the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on a larger group of patients with MS.