A recent study suggests that there may be a link between MS progression and blood lipids in MS patients who are overweight or obese. The study published in the Lancet journal EBioMedicine supports previous research that hints food, diet, and exercise can help affect disease progression in MS patients.
The researchers found that overweight or obese patients had higher levels of blood lipids called ceramides. These lipids placed markers on the DNA of monocytes, making them proliferate. Monocytes are blood cells that have the ability to damage nerve fibers when they travel to the brain. Two years into their diagnosis, participants of this study with more ceramides and monocytes also had greater brain injury and loss of motor skills.
Two patient cohorts – a primary one and a validation group – were recruited from the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Mount Sinai and the National Institutes of Health to participate in the study. For the first group, 54 therapy-naïve MS patients 18 to 60 years old with high or normal BMIs were evaluated for signs of brain damage using brain MRI, a clinical assessment to ascertain weight, disabilities, and other vital information; and blood tests to analyze the types of circulating lipids and white blood cells. An independent validation group of 91 MS patients from the NIH with the same characteristics and additional control cohorts of healthy individuals within the same BMI range were also evaluated.
Researchers found that high-BMI MS patients showed worsening disability and more brain lesions at the MRI compared to their normal BMI counterparts.
The results suggest that saturated fatty acids may have long-lasting functional effects, which over time steer the MS disease course towards worsening disability. Net net, bad dietary habits may have negative consequences in healthy subjects, but they have an even more pronounced deleterious effect on patients with MS because the degrading myelin can accumulate and further increase ceramide levels.
Additional research is needed to determine whether specific dietary changes and weight management can be beneficial in helping MS patients manage and slow the progression of their disease and better respond to disease-modifying treatments.