Dietary patterns and associations with health outcomes in Australian people with multiple sclerosis

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2021 Oct;75(10):1506-1514. doi: 10.1038/s41430-021-00864-y. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


Background/objectives: Associations between patterns of food intake and health in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are of increasing global interest; however, Australian data are lacking. This study aimed to assess the dietary habits and associations with health outcomes of Australians with MS.

Subjects/methods: This cross-sectional study used 2016 survey data from the Australian MS Longitudinal Study, including the Dietary Habits Questionnaire, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Assessment of Quality of Life, Fatigue Severity Scale, Patient-Determined Disease Steps Scale and 13 MS symptoms scales. Regression models were constructed using directed acyclic graphs.

Results: Almost all (94.3%) of the 1490 participants reported making an effort to eating healthy with 21.2% following one or more specific diets, although often not strictly. Overall, 7.9% reported not eating meat, 8.1% reported not consuming dairy, and 4.0% consumed neither food group. A healthier diet score was associated with better mental, physical and total quality of life, and lower depression, and pain scores, and fewer cognition, vision and bowel symptoms. Higher reported fibre, fruit, vegetable and healthy fat scores were positively associated with most health outcomes.

Conclusions: Healthier overall diet scores and higher fibre, fruit and vegetable scores were associated with better health outcomes in this sample of Australians adults with MS. However, the proportion of participants avoiding dairy and meat, or adhering to a specific MS diet was much lower than previously reported. Prospective dietary studies are needed to further understand whether dietary change is feasible and affects health outcomes over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Vegetables