PHILADELPHIA – Emerging evidence suggests that diet and vascular risk factors including obesity and hyperlipidemia may influence progression of multiple sclerosis.

A poster presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology sought to determine the compliance and safety of a plant-based low-fat diet and obtain preliminary data on its effects on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), clinical outcomes, lipids, insulin and body weight in relapsing remitting MS patients.1

For the one-year study, researchers from the Portland, OR, VAMC and colleagues, assigned 61 subjects, averaging 41 years old with a mean disease duration of 5.3 years, to either a low-fat diet or a control group. At the end of the year, participants were measured based on MRI disease activity and safety as well as changes in relapse rate, disability expanded disability status score (EDSS), a timed 25-foot walk (T25W), Fatigue Severity Score (FSS), blood lipids, body weight and compliance.

After baseline difference adjustment, the groups showed no significant changes in the number of active lesions or other disease parameters, relapse rate, EDSS, T25W and FSS. Positive changes were found, however, in weight loss and related indicators.

“This study demonstrated safety and achievable compliance of this diet,” according to the presentation. “Small sample size, use of disease-modifying therapies by many subjects, and one-year follow-up likely contributed to the reduced power to detect changes on MRI and clinical outcomes. Improved lipid profile and weight may yield longer term vascular health benefits.”

The authors called for longer future studies with larger sample sizes.

1 Yadav V, Marracci G, Kim E, Spain R et. al. Effects of a Low-Fat Plant-Based Diet in Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Results of a One-Year Long Randomized Controlled (RC) Study. Poster presented at American Academy of Neurology Meeting 2014, Philadelphia, PA.