Halloween is just around the corner and sugary treats are everywhere. When it comes to multiple sclerosis, though, sugar can be a tricky subject. Overall, sticking with a healthy diet can pay off health-wise for those with multiple sclerosis. Poor food choices can contribute to excess inflammation in the body, which worsens MS progression, as well as symptoms such as fatigue.
What does a healthy diet mean in the context of MS? It’s basically the same as recommendations for anyone (regardless of health status); that is, a diet based on wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and high-fiber foods, while avoiding refined sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods.
Looking at the diet quality of a large group of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, researchers have discovered that people with the highest quality of diet experience the lowest levels of MS-related disability, as well as being least likely to experience depression, severe fatigue, pain, or brain fogginess. What you eat matters a lot in life overall, and perhaps even more in MS.
Sugary foods present another danger to those with MS. Since sugar provides empty calories, it contributes to weight gain; and being overweight in turn contributes to fatigue – a common MS symptom. Weight issues also exacerbate mobility challenges of those with multiple sclerosis.
So on Halloween this year: if you have MS, go easy on the treats.
Fitzgerald KC, Tyry T, Salter A, et al. Diet quality is associated with disability and symptom severity in multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2018;90(1):e1-11.