March 05, 2019
2 min read

Soda may worsen MS symptoms

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Individuals with multiple sclerosis who consumed high amounts of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to experience severe disability, according to research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.

“MS patients often want to know how diet and specific foods can affect the progression of their disease,” Elisa Meier-Gerdingh, MD, from St. Josef Hospital in Bochum, Germany, said in a press release. “While we did not find a link with overall diet, interestingly, we did find a link with those who drank sodas, flavored juices and sweetened teas and coffees.”

Meier-Gerdingh and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study to examine how diet affects disability in patients with MS (n = 135; 73% women; mean age, 44.6 years; mean BMI, 24.5 kg/m2).

Participants underwent a neurologic exam and completed a 102-item food frequency questionnaire. Based on the questionnaire results, the researchers calculated participants’ Dietary-Approaches-to-Stop-Hypertension (DASH) score, which measured their intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish and nuts and legumes favorably and intake of sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages and red and processed meats unfavorably. Low scores indicated poor quality, while high scores indicated high quality.

Individuals with multiple sclerosis who consumed high amounts of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to experience severe disability.
Source: Adobe Stock

Disability status was measured using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and categorized as mild-to-moderate (EDSS < 6) and severe (EDSS 6).

“We chose to study the DASH diet because adherence to the DASH diet is associated with lower risk of other chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” Meier-Gerdingh said.

The researchers identified 30 participants with severe disability.

There was no association between overall DASH scores and disability status.

However, patients with the highest intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (290 calories per day; n = 34) had a fivefold higher risk of severe disability (OR = 5.01; 95% CI, 1.03-24.37). Patients in the highest group of sugar-sweetened beverage intake had an average disability score of 4.1 points and those in the lowest group who rarely drank sugar sweetened beverages had an average of 3.4 points.

“While these results need to be confirmed by larger studies that follow people over a long period of time, and the results do not show that soda and sugar-sweetened beverages cause more severe disability, we do know that sodas have no nutritional value and people with MS may want to consider reducing or eliminating them from their diet,” Meier-Gerdingh said. – by Alaina Tedesco



Meier-Gerdingh E, et al. Dietary intake and the effect on disease progression in people with multiple sclerosis. Presented at: American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting; May 4-10, 2019; Philadelphia.

Disclosures: Healio Primary Care Today was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.