Diets and bone health: Can eating red meat prevent multiple sclerosis?
12/21/2019 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

The link between certain diets and multiple sclerosis (MS) is an area of great interest among members of the MS community. While there are already established studies that point towards the beneficial effects of certain foods and dietary components like omega-3 fatty acids, there is not enough research to make a solid consensus on whether a particular diet is beneficial for people with MS. Now, recent evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet could be the key to dietary treatment of MS.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a Mediterranean diet that includes unprocessed red meat can reduce your risk of developing central nervous system (CNS) demyelination, which is a common precursor to MS.

The Mediterranean diet and red meat for MS prevention

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, about one million adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. are affected by MS. Experts claim that risk factors for developing MS also include environmental factors such as low sun exposure, low vitamin D, and poor diet. However, evidence that links diet with MS risk remain inconclusive. (Related: Multiple sclerosis can be mitigated by making healthy lifestyle changes.)

"Previous research suggests that a Mediterranean diet can help to reduce the risk of certain health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and dementia and improve overall life expectancy. However, there is inconclusive evidence to suggest a Mediterranean diet also reduces the risk of developing MS," said lead author Lucinda Black, from the School of Public Health at Curtin University.


Because of this, researchers from Australia aimed to examine the associations between a Mediterranean diet and the risk of a first clinical diagnosis of CNS demyelination. To do so, the research team gathered and analyzed data from the Ausimmune study, a multicenter, case-control study that examines the environmental risk factors for CNS demyelination. Data from this study included 282 cases of people with MS alongside 558 healthy control subjects.

Black and her team used the alternate Mediterranean diet score (aMED) to measure the participants' adherence to the diets, with 9 being the highest adherence and 0 being the lowest. The team also developed a modified version of this score called aMED-Red, with one point assigned to participants who ate about one serving of 65 grams worth of unprocessed red meat.

The researchers then divided all the participants into four categories: Category 1 (0-2 points), category 2 (3-4 points), category 3 (5 points), category 4 (6-9 points).

The results reveal that, while there is no statistically significant association between aMED and risk of CNS demyelination, they saw that people in the upper echelons of aMED-Red scores showed a significantly reduced risk of CNS demyelination corresponding to a 37 percent, 52 percent, and 42 percent reduced risk of CNS demyelination in categories 2, 3 and 4, respectively.

"Our research found that consuming one daily serving (65 g) of unprocessed red meat as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for those at high risk of developing MS," said Black. "It is unclear why consuming red meat combined with a healthy diet may lower the risk of MS, but red meat contains important macro and micronutrients including protein, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium, vitamin D, and a range of B-vitamins, many of which are important for healthy neurological function."

According to co-author Robyn Lucas from the Australian National University in Canberra, this research highlighted the necessity to educate people who are at a higher risk of developing MS about the impact of their diet on their overall health.

Prevent the onset of multiple sclerosis by adopting a Mediterranean diet packed with healthy, unprocessed red meat. For more ideas on how nutrition affects your overall health, visit

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