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21 December 2011

MS largely preventable with attention to modifiable risk factors

A new paper summarises the lifestyle factors that can be modified to prevent MS in our offspring

The European Charcot Foundation Symposium on MS was held in Fiuggi Italy in December 2010, and its results published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences in December 2011. The symposium was focused on a reappraisal of the nutritional and environmental factors responsible for MS development.

This paper was the keynote address to the symposium and outlines the risk factors that can potentially be modified to prevent MS in our offspring, who as we know, are at greatly increased risk of developing the disease. Naturally, the role of vitamin D was highlighted, with the experts agreeing with us that the optimal level to aim for in blood level of vitamin D to prevent MS is at least 100 nmol/L (remember we say that once you have the disease, to modify the disease course you need to aim for at least 150 nmol/L), and that supplementing to this level could dramatically reduce the incidence of the disease. The experts also noted the role of smoking in increasing MS risk, of infection with the glandular fever virus (Epstein-Barr Virus) and of being overweight.

Of course, nothing can be done to reduce one’s risk once you have had glandular fever, but the experts suggested that a vaccine might help in preventing the disease, and hence MS. The obvious omission was any real discussion about diet and saturated fat, and we urgently need more research in this key area.