Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Risk of Multiple Sclerosis


A prospective cohort study, using data from the UK Biobank, suggested that the Mediterranean diet could provide benefits to patients with multiple sclerosis.

Adhering to the Mediterranean diet was found to be a potentially protective—though not significant—factor against multiple sclerosis, according to a recent study published in Nutrients.1

Table of fruit, vegetable, legume, and fish | Image credit: Rodica Ciorba -

The Mediterranean diet largely consists of higher fruit, vegetable, legume, and fish intake.

Image credit: Rodica Ciorba -

The Mediterranean diet involves consuming more whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables, fish and olive oil, couple with reduced consumption of animal fats or butter, dairy, poultry, red meat, and a moderate intake of red wine with meals.2 As Bionews reported, prior research has not argued for a particular diet regimen in patients with multiple sclerosis; however, multiple analysis have suggested the possible benefits multiple diets can have on damage to the brain. Mazzucca et al echoed these sentiments, pointing to a plethora of data in the realm of diet’s impact on multiple sclerosis.1 As they noted, this literature produced conflicting results. For example, vitamin D has been indicated as beneficial for patients with multiple sclerosis, yet, dairy products—that typically have high concentrations of vitamin D—have been negatively associated with disease outcomes.

To further evaluate the potential connection between diet and multiple sclerosis onset, Mazzucca et al conducted what they deemed one of the largest cohort studies to date, using data gathered from the UK Biobank. Their cohort included 502,507 participants across England, Scotland or Wales, dating back to the initiation of a UK Biobank cohort study in 2006. These individuals ranged from 40-69 years, and each completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) at baseline, where they reported their typical food and alcohol intake (quantity and frequency) over the last year. There was also a component where a select number of enrollees were asked to report their diet over the last 24 hours (24 h recall) in an online interview.

In total, the final cohort included 499,563 eligible individuals. On average, the participants engaged in 12.29 years of follow-up and exhibited 7.78 multiple sclerosis events per every 100,000-person year.

Researchers notably observed that consuming oily fish once or twice per week was associated with lower risk of multiple sclerosis compared with no consumption (once: aHR, 0.642; 95% CI, 0.480-0.859; twice: aHR, 0.666; 95% CI, 0.474-0.934; P = .0035). Furthermore, regularity of one’s alcohol consumption was inversely related to multiple sclerosis risk in regard to weekly vs monthly consumption (HR, 0.799; 95% CI, 0.648-0.984). While the overall trends with adherence to the Mediterranean diet did not reach statistical significant, Mazzucca et al emphasized the positive trends they witnessed, indicating a potentially protective effect.

“It is often difficult to identify possible correlations between individual foods and clinical outcomes,” Mazzucca et al wrote, adding, “However, the most recent research in nutritional immunology focuses on the role of complex nutritional patterns, rather than on single foods/nutrients, in chronic disease risk.”

Applying this approach to their own study, the authors concluded, “These data provide a basis for more specific studies addressing the role of diet in MS [multiple sclerosis] onset, which may help to build evidence-based indications for MS prevention and management. Moreover, given the heterogeneity of disease subtypes and the existence of different MS ‘phenotypes’, the application of this pipeline on other study cohorts, in which the number of incident cases is enough to permit further stratifications, may lead to new insights useful for personalizing dietary approaches in the context of precision nutrition.”


1. Barbero Mazzucca C, Scotti L, Comi C, Vecchio D, Chiocchetti A, Cappellano G. The role of diet in multiple sclerosis onset: A prospective study using UK Biobank. Nutrients. 2024;16(11):1746. doi:10.3390/nu16111746

2. Mediterranean diet and MS. Bionews. Accessed June 19, 2024.

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