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MS Research Spotlight: Veggies, MS Fatigue, Flu Vaccines & More

MS Research Spotlight covers key research news from the last month.


Really, is it ever a bad idea to eat your veggies?

Studies that looked at cholesterol levels in the bloodstream—especially the so-called “good cholesterol” known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—have found that higher levels of HDL can improve MS-related fatigue.1

Of course, this mirrors previous findings by other researchers, including work by Dr. Terry Wahls, whose popular Wahls Protocol diet promotes dietary increases in fruits and vegetables.

While the University of Buffalo study didn’t confirm Wahls’ theories behind her popular diet, it showed “higher levels of HDL had the greatest impact on fatigue, possibly because good cholesterol plays a critical role in muscle, stimulating glucose uptake and increasing respiration in cells to improve physical performance and muscle strength,” writes study author Murali Ramanathan.2

Interestingly, Ramanathan also notes that “Patients consumed fewer calories and experienced decreases in BMI and triglyceride and LDL levels as well. However, these factors were found unrelated to changes in fatigue.”


A supportive spouse can make all the difference in MS

Sedentary living can be common among people with MS, which is problematic: it also tends to increase one’s risk for disability and for the development of other health conditions.

Researchers at the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science (University of Vermont, Burlington) recently explored the different factors that influence the motivation to be physically active in people living with MS.3

They found that “supportive and empathetic spousal communication, encouragement and expectations regarding physical activity, and bonding through co-participation increased feelings of relatedness.”

In other words, when one’s partner is encouraging and actively participating in physical activities, they’re more willing to choose an active lifestyle over a sedentary one.3


Landmark research: a comprehensive review of fatigue & sleep as it relates to autoimmune disease

For the research junkies out there: If you’re looking for a single source that takes a deep dive into the relationship between sleep, fatigue, and MS, this is The One.4


Three key risk factors can identify potential disability acceleration in MS

A team led by Dr. Tomas Kalinick (University of Melbourne, Australia) identified three major markers associated with “higher risk for aggressive MS” in a paper recently published in medRxiv.5

  1. MS onset age at 35 years or older
  2. Moderate disability in the first year of MS
  3. Motor signs in the first year of MS

The researchers defined “aggressive MS” as a form which generates accelerated disability as measured by the EDSS (expanded disability status scale), with scores greater than or equal to a rating of 6 on the scale within 10 years of symptom onset.5

You can learn more about the EDSS from this resource offered by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society [NMSS] website here.

This was a retrospective study, meaning the researchers used data already available to them through the international MSBase cohort.

They found that 6 percent of the patients identified in the database were classified as having aggressive MS. Their research model, validated elsewhere, “significantly predicted” aggressive MS using these statistical markers. A third of the patients meeting the criteria for aggressive MS experienced all three risk factors, while the absence of all three factors showed a 1.4 percent risk.

Using these markers might shift priorities regarding treatment of MS and its symptoms in the future or assist decision-making those in the early stages of onset.5


Flu vaccine linked to lower risk factors for MS diagnosis

If you’re worried that the flu vaccine might cause MS, don’t. Recent large-scale research puts that worry to rest.6

A study in Germany published in Neurology showed that, among more than 12,000 participants, the odds of developing MS within five years of having a flu vaccination were negligible. Not only that, but those who received a flu vaccine showed an even lower likelihood of an MS diagnosis than their nonvaccinated counterparts.

“Whether this is a protective effort needs to be addressed by future studies,” write the study authors.6

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. University at Buffalo. "Vegetable-rich diet lowers fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients by raising good cholesterol: Fatigue affects majority of MS patients, impacting quality of life and ability to work full time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190815134822.htm.
  2. Maxwell KF, Wahls T, Browne RW, et al. Lipid profile is associated with decreased fatigue in individuals with progressive multiple sclerosis following a diet-based intervention: Results from a pilot study. Plos One. 2019;14(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0218075.
  3. Wood V, Kasser SL. Spousal support and self-determined physical activity in individuals with multiple sclerosis: A theory-informed qualitative exploration. Disability and Health Journal. August 2019:100835. doi:10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.100835.
  4. Zielinksi M, Systrom D, Rose N. Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders. Frontiers in Immunology. August 6, 2019. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01827/full
  5. George J. Early Clinical Markers Point to Aggressive MS. Medpage Today. August 2, 2019. https://www.medpagetoday.com/neurology/multiplesclerosis/81400
  6. Hapfelmeier A, Gasperi C, Donnachie E, Hemmer B. A large case-control study on vaccination as risk factor for multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2019;93(9). doi:10.1212/wnl.0000000000008012.

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