Multiple Sclerosis and the Microbiome

Pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders, like multiple sclerosis, has been linked to a derangement of the gut microbiome.

Dietary components could result in immune modulation and benefit patients.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system characterized by demyelination and is mediated by an autoimmune process directed against central neural tissues.

As diet plays an important role in shaping the gut microbiome and a high-fiber intake has been linked to health benefits, partially due to the effect of fiber on gut microbial composition, immune response could possibly be modulated and MS disease activity could be affected by dietary patterns.

20 individuals were selected for study and followed either a Western Diet or a high-vegetable/low-protein diet. The later diet was characterized by the use of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and extra virgin olive oil and very limited use of animal proteins (including fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy) as well as low intake of refined cereals, salt, sugar, fried foods and the exclusion of red meat, alcohol, saturated fats from animal foods, and trans-fats. The Western Diet was characterized by the regular consumption of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, sweetened foods, salt, and an overall high intake of saturated and omega-6 fatty acids.

Subjects were studied for 1 year and blood and fecal samples were collected as well as neurological examinations performed.

Different diet regimens have been shown to influence the composition of the intestinal microbiome and are suggested to modulate the clinical expression of a number of different inflammatory and non-inflammatory conditions.

This study observed that the use of a high-vegetable/low-protein diet in MS patients was linked to an abundance of Lachnospiraceae bacteria. This family belongs to the Firmicutes phylum which are butyrate producers. This is important because butyrate has the ability to induce generation of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS – used to quantify disability in MS) scores improved in the high-vegetable/low-protein group and declined in Western Diet patients with a significant difference between the two. Almost all (90%) of the Western Diet participants experienced relapses in the 12 month follow-up period whereas only 30% of the other group relapsed.

Saresella et al. “Immunological and Clinical Effect of Diet Modulation of the Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis Patients: A Pilot Study”. Front Immunol 8:1391. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01391

Leave a Reply