How Does Diet Affect Progression of Multiple Sclerosis?

The makeup of the diets of patients with multiple sclerosis may impact the progression of the disease, especially dietary fatty acids.

The makeup of the diets of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may impact the progression of the disease, especially dietary fatty acids, according to a study published in the journal Immunity.

Researchers from the Ruhr Universitat Bochum and the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen, both in Germany, used culture cell dishes and experimental models in order to test whether or not the disease progression of MS patients could be impacted through their diets. The researchers used a human gut microbiome and studied the interaction between the intestinal contents and the immune factors.

Long chain fatty acids, like lauric acid, were shown to promote the development and propagation of inflammatory cells in the intestinal wall, the researchers explained in a press release. However, they said, short chain fatty acids — most prominently propionic acid or its salt propionate – lead to the development and propagation of regulatory cells in the immune system within the gut microbiome. Those cells, the authors commented, have the ability to regulate excessive inflammatory responses and autoreactive immune cells.

The researchers highlighted the fact that once the intestine was free of germs, no effects of dietary fatty acids were observed. Thus, the intestinal microbiome is directly involved in the mechanism of fatty acid action, the authors inferred. Continuing experiments by the researchers demonstrated that the metabolic products of the microbiome, rather than a single bacterial strain, are responsible for the observed effects, the statement continued.

The researchers added that the body of research surrounding this topic suggests that nutrition and bacterial metabolites may impact the immune system for autoimmune disease patients. Plus, they said, the current body of work surrounding this topic believes MS and diseases like it stem from the weakened regulatory and pro inflammatory autoimmune mechanisms. The researchers want to use the results from this study as a building block to develop innovative dietary therapies to combine with established immunotherapies for MS patients.