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Research papers – foods to avoid for wellbeing

Discover the research studies that demonstrate foods to avoid, which align with the Overcoming MS Program recommendations.

Published research illustrating the foods to avoid for MS and for general health found in Jan 2024 in a project with student G H Alzanbaqi and Dr Jonathan White.


Processed and non-processed meat

Paper: Comparison of Food Intake in Multiple Sclerosis Patients and Healthy Individuals: A Hospital-Based Case-Controlled Study

Journal: Iranian Journal of Child Neurology, 13(4), 143–154. 2019

Key insights: Higher intake of processed meat is associated with a 107% increased risk, and for non-processed meat, it’s associated with a 38% increased risk of MS

Description: In this hospital-based case-control study conducted in Tehran, Iran, the objective was to investigate the association between dietary intake and the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). The study involved 93 MS patients and 94 age-matched controls. Higher intake of processed meat (Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.07; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 1.18-3.63) and non-processed meat (OR = 1.38; 95% CI = 1.13-1.68) was observed in the MS group compared to the control group. There were no significant differences in age and body mass index (BMI) between the two groups. The findings suggest that increased consumption of processed and non-processed meats may be associated with an elevated risk of MS, indicating a need for further studies to explore the potential role of these nutritional factors in the development of MS.

Ultra-processed food

Paper: Ultra processed foods consumption is associated with multiple sclerosis severity

Journal: Nutrients, 15(10), 2266–2266. 2023

Key insights: There is a significant association between higher intake of ultra-processed foods and increased disease severity in individuals with multiple sclerosis. (Ultra-processed foods) UPFs may influence oxidative stress and inflammation, suggesting potential roles in modulating immune system processes related to MS.

Description: The aim of the study was to investigate the potential link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF) and the severity of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in a group of Italian patients with MS. The study collected demographic, neurological, and nutritional information from the patients, including dietary habits, physical activity, and smoking habits. The patients were classified into two groups based on MS severity. The results indicated that higher UPF consumption was associated with moderate-to-high MS severity, even after adjusting for potential confounding factors. The study concludes that while these findings are preliminary and hypothesis-generating, it is important to explore how different aspects of diet may be related to MS severity to develop effective strategies to support MS patients.


Salty and sweet snacks and carbonated drinks

Paper: The effect of unhealthy snacks on incidence of hypertension in adults during 3 years follows up: Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study

Journal: Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology and Life Sciences, 4(6), 84–86. 2015

Key insights: Salty snacks: A non-significant increase of 26% in hypertension risk for those in the highest quartile. Sweets: A non-significant increase of 30% in hypertension risk for those in the third quartile. Carbonated drinks: A significant 61% increase in hypertension risk for subjects with the highest consumption.

Description: This study investigates the impact of unhealthy snacks on the risk of developing hypertension in Tehranian adults over a 3-year follow-up period. The research, conducted as part of the Tehran Lipid and Glucose study, involves 1878 adults between 2006-2008 and 2009-2011. The participants’ dietary intakes were assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire, focusing on various unhealthy snacks such as salty snacks, sweets, and carbonated drinks. Hypertension, defined as systolic blood pressure ≥140 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mmHg, was used as the primary outcome.

The study finds a non-significant increase in the risk of hypertension in the highest quartile of salty snack consumption and the third quartile of sweet consumption. However, a notable 61% increase in the risk of hypertension is observed in individuals with the highest consumption of carbonated drinks. The results suggest that high intake of salty snacks, sweets, and carbonated drinks may serve as dietary risk factors for the development of hypertension

Saturated fat

Paper: Determination of variability in serum low density lipoprotein cholesterol response to the replacement of dietary saturated fat with unsaturated fat, in the Reading, Imperial, Surrey Saturated fat Cholesterol Intervention (‘RISSCI’)

Journal: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 79(OCE1). 2020

Key insights: Reducing saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake to 10% or less of total energy is a key guideline for cardiovascular health. However, individual responses to this dietary change vary significantly. In RISSCI-1, participants following a high SFA diet (18% of total energy) for 4 weeks, followed by a lower SFA diet (≤ 10% of total energy), showed significant reductions in total cholesterol (TC) and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C). Despite good compliance, the change in serum LDL-C ranged widely among participants, suggesting substantial individual differences in response to dietary interventions.

Description: The study, known as the RISSCI project, focuses on understanding the variability in serum low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) response to changes in saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake, a key factor in cardiovascular disease prevention. The main dietary guideline recommends reducing SFA intake to 10% of total energy. However, significant individual differences in the response to this reduction may limit its effectiveness. The RISSCI project aims to investigate these variations to inform personalized dietary approaches. In the first phase (RISSCI-1), 109 healthy men followed a high SFA diet for 4 weeks, followed by a lower SFA diet for another 4 weeks. The replacement of SFA with mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFA and PUFA) showed compliance, no BMI effects, and led to significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL-C within 4 weeks. However, individual responses varied widely, ranging from a 40% decrease to a 20% increase in serum LDL-C. This variation mimicked results from longer-term intervention trials, emphasizing the need for more personalized dietary recommendations.

Ultra-processed food

Paper: Ultra-Processed Food Intake Is Associated with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Journal: Nutrients, 15(10), 2266–2266. 2023

Key insights:  Consumption of UPF, as opposed to low consumption, was linked to a substantial 42% increase in the risk of developing NAFLD.

Description: The study aimed to investigate the association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF) and the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, including 9 studies involving 60,961 individuals. The results showed that both moderate and high intake of UPF significantly increased the risk of NAFLD. The findings suggest a dose-response relationship, emphasizing the importance of public health measures to reduce the overconsumption of ultra-processed foods to mitigate the burden of NAFLD, as well as related conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. The study did not find evidence of publication bias.

There are also many references in the main book by Professor George Jelinek. The Diet section is covered on pages 71-147 of the book and includes a total of 150 scientific evidence-based research articles.