Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who reported food allergies showed a 27 percent higher cumulative rate of flare-ups over the course of their disease, and more than twice the likelihood of having active inflammatory lesions, a new study shows.
The study, “Food Allergies are Associated with Increased Disease Activity in Multiple Sclerosis,” led by researchers at Partners MS Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
Several genetic and environmental factors have been associated with MS development.
Allergy to environmental triggers (like pollen, grass, or dust mites), certain medicines, or food (like nuts, shellfish, or wheat) have been suggested as potential risk factors for the disease. However, the data available so far have been inconclusive.
To determine whether there is an association between MS and allergy, researchers assessed 1,349 individuals with MS enrolled in the Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (CLIMB) study. The average disease duration of the patients was 16 years.
Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire about environmental, medicinal, and food allergies.
Among participants, 427 had no known allergies; 922 had one or more allergies. Allergic patients were divided into three groups: those suffering from environmental allergies (586 patients), from food allergies (238), or from allergies associated with prescribed medication (574).
Researchers collected data on the total number of MS flare-ups/relapses each participant had experienced over the course of their disease, and data concerning their expanded disability status scale (EDSS), MS severity score (MSSS), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The MRI parameters analyzed were the presence and number of lesions detected. All these measures are indicative of the patient’s disease activity.
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