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Approved Research

Role of macro/micronutrients and dietary patterns in the development of multiple sclerosis.

Principal Investigator: Professor Annalisa Chiocchetti
Approved Research ID: 91267
Approval date: November 10th 2022

Lay summary

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune chronic inflammatory disease characterized by central nervous system (CNS) lesions that can lead to severe physical or cognitive disability as well as neurological defects. MS estimated incidence of between 8 and 11 new cases diagnosed each year in England per 100,000 population, being more than twice as common in females than males.

Although the etiology and pathogenesis of MS remains unclear, the current evidence suggest that MS is a multifactorial disease in which both genetic predisposition and environmental factors may play a role.

The exposure to infectious agents, vitamin deficiencies, obesity and smoking have been indicated as possible risk factors; recently, also lifestyle and diet quality have been highlighted as possible disease-risk modifying agents. Together with genetic predisposition, these environmental factors could trigger a cascade of events in the immune system which lead to neuronal cell death accompanied by nerve demyelination and neuronal dysfunction.

However, there is still uncertainty about the role of single macro or micro nutrients, food items or complex dietary patterns as possible disease-modifying factors because the few studies available on the topic are heterogenous in design and conducted on small cohorts .

We propose to use the data already collected in UK Biobank to investigate the possible link of diet with onset of MS. We plan to focus only on new events of MS diagnosed by hospital doctors or general practitioners. We will use information on diet from touchscreen questionnaires, collected at baseline, and 24h recall interview completed by a sub-sample of study participants.

This will be the largest investigation into the relationship between dietary habits, supplements and MS risk. Because of its size and the range of methods used, this study has the potential to reliably clarify if certain food, nutrients, supplements, or dietary patterns are associated with MS onset. Ultimately, this investigation can result in improved preventative tools for individuals that are at high risk for MS, such as relatives of MS patients.