Patients With Multiple Sclerosis Need Better Dietary Education From Providers

Samantha DiGrande

A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that healthcare professionals are downplaying the importance of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) following national dietary guidelines. This is causing recently diagnosed patients to conduct their own research and seek alternative dietary options. 

Studies have estimated that up to 42% of patients with MS make changes to their diet after receiving a diagnosis. To date, there has been limited investigations into experiences surrounding diet changes in recently diagnosed patients. In this study, researchers sought to analyze responses to diet changes in patients with MS in Australia. 

The study enrolled 11 adults who had recently been diagnosed with MS (mean time since diagnosis, 8 months). Participants then partook in semi-structured interviews that focused on responses to their diet since they were diagnosed. 

“We found that there was a lack of generalized dietary advice for people just diagnosed. In light of this, people with MS conducted their own extensive research and self-experimented with diet to either control their MS symptoms or to cure MS,” said lead researcher Rebecca Russell in a statement

Researchers found that throughout the interviews, 3 themes emerged: a general lack of dietary advice given at the time of diagnosis; extensive personal research with difficulty judging medical credibility; and self-experimentation with diet. 

The study investigators noted that given the seriousness of the disease, there is a perceived gap in dietary information provided at the time of diagnosis. Based on this finding, researchers have recommended that healthcare professionals address concerns with alternative therapeutic diets advertised to treat or cure MS.

“This would better align advice with the perceptions about the role of diet in MS, assist people with MS in need of information, and minimize self-experimentation,” noted the study authors. 

Finally, the authors encouraged future research to analyze the importance of diet in MS patients that have had the disease for an extended period of time. 

Russell R, Black L, Sherrif J, Begley A. Dietary responses to a multiple sclerosis diagnosis: a qualitative study. [published online June 25, 2018]. Eur J Clin Nutr.
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