Research into lifestyle benefits for people with MS

23 January, 2017

There is a great deal of interest in the MS community and reported in the media about the influence of lifestyle factors affecting MS disease course and outcomes. Most recently there was an article about Professor George Jelinek’s personal story of living with MS and his approach to managing MS. MS Research Australia is very supportive of the furthering of quality research into lifestyle factors affecting MS.

The adoption of a healthy lifestyle can bring many benefits to people with MS, aiding in their overall wellbeing and management of their MS. However, everyone’s MS and their individual circumstances are different meaning that the treatment and management of their disease is also very individual. Therefore any lifestyle changes are likely to be needed to be done in combination with the appropriate MS medications as recommended by their neurologist.
Whilst there is evidence that factors such as smoking, physical activity, and the presence of other health conditions can affect disease course, this area of research is a complex one with so many variable factors needing to be taken into account. Research is being conducted globally and we look forward to receiving further definitive evidence about specific diets or dietary components.
We do recommend that people with MS adopt as healthy a lifestyle as possible (a healthy balanced diet, physical activity, not smoking) in conjunction with medication as recommended by their neurologist. Significant dietary changes should only be made in conjunction with a health professional and in discussion with your neurologist, to ensure that the changes do not lead to nutritional or energy deficiencies.
The MS Research Australia-supported Australian MS Longitudinal Study, run by Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Tasmania will be collaborating with Dr Claudia Marck from Professor Jelinek’s research group to conduct some shared research in this area to further understand whether adhering to diet and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of MS disease activity and disability.
The role of lifestyle factors emerged as a clear priority theme across the research categories of prevention and management of MS in the recent MS Research Australia community survey on the priorities in MS Research.
While there is already strong evidence that quitting smoking can delay disability for people with MS and evidence is emerging about certain dietary components in MS, there is still much work to be done. We are gathering evidence via the worlds first MS Research Australia funded Vitamin D Prevention Trial (PrevANZ) as to the benefits that can be expected from vitamin D supplementation and most importantly the correct and safest dosage (or blood level of vitamin D) needed to achieve those outcomes.
MS Research Australia will be exploring further research avenues in this area in the coming months to work towards a better understanding of the role that lifestyle modification can play in improving disease outcomes and quality of life.
For more information about Professor Jelinek’s research publication that is mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald article, please see the following link.
For a detailed review of the latest research relating to nutrition and MS, please see link.
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