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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Diet, Smoking May Affect MS Progression

FRIDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- Dietary factors and cigarette smoking may alter the course of disease in patients with a milder form of multiple sclerosis, a new study finds.
Out of nearly 900 patients with what is called "relapsing onset" multiple sclerosis (MS), those who regularly consumed alcohol, caffeine and fish were less likely to progress to the point that they needed help walking, which is considered a milestone in the course of the disease. In contrast, cigarette smoking was associated with an increased risk of becoming disabled.
One explanation is that dietary factors might have a direct protective effect on MS patients, said Dr. Marie D'hooghe, a clinical neurologist in Belgium and lead author of the study. Caffeine, fish and alcohol at low to moderate levels are all known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and focal, or localized, inflammation in the brain and spinal cord is an important aspect of relapsing MS.
However, the study did not prove that caffeine and alcohol will slow MS, an incurable disease of the nervous system, and patients should not use these findings as a reason to suddenly start brewing coffee and sipping cocktails.
Also, the study only saw the associations between diet and smoking and disease progression among patients with relapsing-remitting MS, and not among those with what is known as primary progressive MS.
This suggests that progressive MS is a distinct phase of the disease with different mechanisms, D'hooghe said. "Degeneration [of nerve cells] is probably more relevant in progressive onset and inflammation is not as important," she said.

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