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Red meat on a chopping board

Research papers – red meat consumption and multiple sclerosis

Find out more about the research studies that discuss the impact of red meat on multiple sclerosis.

Published research illustrating the impact of diet found in Jan 2024 in a project with student M Alvarez Garcia De La Rosa and Dr Jonathan White.

Red meat consumption and multiple sclerosis

Paper: Effects of Meat Consumption on Multiple Sclerosis / A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Journal: Nutritional Neuroscience, 2021 Jul

Key findings: Statistically significant decreases in MS risk were associated with white meat consumption and non-processed meat consumption. The study also showed that there was a potential increase in the risk of developing MS when consuming processed red meat.

Conclusions: The study aimed to investigate the relationship between meat consumption and multiple sclerosis (MS) as diet is considered a potential risk factor for MS pathogenesis. Conducted as a systematic review and meta-analysis from 1998 to 2020, the study analysed 10 selected articles out of 186, with a total sample size of 11,024.

The results revealed statistically significant decreases in the risk of MS associated with white meat consumption (odds ratio: 0.81) and non-processed meat (odds ratio: 0.85). However, processed red meat showed a potential increase in the risk of MS (odds ratio: 1.21).

In conclusion, the study suggests that consumption of processed red meat may elevate the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.  

Paper: Alterations of host-gut microbiome interactions in multiple sclerosis – 2022

Journal: The Lancet, Feb 2022

Key findings: There is a potential influence of meat intake on the composition of the gut microbiota, specifically affecting the levels of a bacteria crucial for digesting carbohydrates from vegetables. Increased meat consumption in individuals with multiple sclerosis is correlated with changes in their immune system

Description: This longitudinal study, involving 49 participants, utilized advanced multi-omics techniques to explore intricate connections. The findings indicated that increased meat consumption, coupled with alterations in blood composition, the immune system, and gut ecology, were associated with more severe multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.

In the examined subject cohort, the healthy control group had an average daily meat intake of one ounce (28 grams), while individuals with MS consumed more than double, reaching two-and-a-half ounces daily. For this study, “meat” refers specifically to red and white meat, excluding fish or seafood.

This longitudinal study involved baseline and six-month assessments, spanning three years of research. Although a direct correlation between meat consumption, the gut microbiome, peripheral immune profile, and other factors was not established, the observed pattern suggested an anomaly in the gut bacteria of individuals with MS. This disconnect from the immune system appeared to lead to an increase in T-helper 17 cells and autoimmune attacks on the nervous system, with a notable association with meat consumption.

Future studies should include those with more severe MS. 

Paper: Higher Non-processed Red Meat Consumption Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Central Nervous System Demyelination – 2019

Journal: Frontiers in Neurology, vol 10

Key findings: A higher intake of non-processed red meat is associated with a statistically significant reduction in the risk of FCD (Focal Cortical Dysplasia).

Description: Higher non‐processed red meat consumption 1‐year preceding diagnosis was associated with a reduced risk of CNS demyelination.

The study aimed to examine the inconclusive evidence regarding the association between red meat consumption and the risk of multiple sclerosis. Using data from the 2003–2006 Ausimmune Study, a case-control study on environmental risk factors for central nervous system demyelination (FCD), a precursor to multiple sclerosis, the research analysed non-processed and processed red meat density (g/1,000 kcal/day). Conditional logistic regression models, adjusted for various factors, were employed to assess the association between red meat consumption and FCD risk.

A one standard deviation increase in non-processed red meat density was linked to a 19% reduced FCD risk. Stratification by sex revealed a 26% reduced FCD risk in females, while no statistically significant association was observed in males. No significant association was found between processed red meat density and FCD risk. The study concludes that further investigation is needed to identify the key components in a diet containing non-processed red meat associated with lower FCD risk.

Paper: The role of diet in multiple sclerosis onset and course: results from a nationwide retrospective birth‐year cohort – 2023

Journal: Annuals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 2023 August

Key findings: Overall quality of diet and specific dietary components during childhood are correlated with the onset of MS in adulthood. Despite previous associations between red meat consumption, particularly processed red meat, and heightened risks of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer, findings in the context of MS have been inconclusive. An interesting observation indicates that a higher intake of non-processed red meat in the year preceding the diagnosis was associated with a reduced risk of central nervous system demyelination.

Description: An association between frequent red meat consumption and higher LV in PwMS. Red meat has been linked to a potentially detrimental effect on the brain due to its high content of saturated fat and cholesterol, advanced glycation endproducts produced in cooked meat and high amounts of heme iron leading to iron‐mediate oxidative stress.

Paper: Higher‐quality diet and non‐consumption of meat are associated with less self‐determined disability progression in people with multiple sclerosis: a longitudinal cohort study. – 2022

Journal: European Journal of Neurology, 2022 January.

Key findings: Meat consumption showed an association with disability progression. *Important to note that the assessment method is constrained by its failure to explicitly inquire about the specific types and quantities of various meats, poultry, and seafood consumed. Some evidence to show that a better diet was linked with lower fatigue and depression

Description: The study examined the association of fish and shrimp consumption and 13 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in FADS1, FADS2, and ELOV2 with risk of MS in 1153 individuals from the MS Sunshine Study, a case-control study of incident MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), recruited from Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

In this study, the impact of modifiable lifestyle factors, particularly diet, on clinical outcomes in multiple sclerosis (MS) was investigated. Utilizing data from the HOLISM international cohort over 2.5 years, participants’ dietary habits were assessed using a modified Diet Habits Questionnaire (DHQ). Disability, fatigue, and depression risk were measured using the Patient‐determined MS Severity Score (P‐MSSS), the Fatigue Severity Scale, and the Patient Health Questionnaire‐2, respectively. The study involved 1,346 participants, and the results indicated that higher DHQ scores were associated with lower frequencies of severe disability, fatigue, and depression risk in a dose-dependent manner. Prospectively, higher baseline DHQ scores were linked to a lower risk of increasing disability. Notably, meat consumption showed associations with higher disability, both cross-sectionally and prospectively, while better diet quality and abstaining from meat were associated with reduced disability progression in individuals with MS.

Considering internal and external consistency, dose-dependency, and biological plausibility collectively, there is substantial evidence supporting a relationship between the quality of the diet and disability in individuals with MS.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acid intake may be an important modifiable risk factor for MS. This is consistent with the other known health benefits of fish consumption and complementary genetic studies supporting a key role for omega-3 regulation. The findings that better diet quality and abstaining from meat being associated with reduced disability progression in individuals with MS are also important.

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.