Dietary factors and MRI metrics in early Multiple Sclerosis

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 Aug:53:103031. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.103031. Epub 2021 May 19.


Background: Despite significant interest in diet by the MS community, research on this topic is limited; there are no published studies evaluating associations between diet and neuroimaging in MS.

Methods: We utilized baseline data from the RADIEMS cohort of early MS (diagnosed <5.0 years, n=180). Participants underwent brain MRIs to derive normalized total gray and thalamic volumes, T2 lesion volume, and white matter microstructural integrity of normal appearing white matter (NAWM). Participants completed food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) from which we calculated adherence scores to pre-specified dietary patterns including the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet. We evaluated intake of the following pre-specified dietary components: fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, dairy, fried foods, processed meats, and fat intake. We used multivariable-adjusted linear regression to evaluate MRI metrics versus dietary measures.

Results: MIND diet score was associated with thalamic volume; individuals in the highest quartile of MIND diet scores had greater thalamic volumes versus those in the lowest quartile (Q4 vs. Q1: 1.03mL; 95%CI: 0.26mL, 1.79mL; p<0.01). For individual food/nutrients, higher intakes of full-fat dairy were associated with lower T2 lesion volumes (Q4 vs. Q1: -0.93mL; 95%CI: -1.51mL, -0.35ml; p<0.01). Higher intakes of marine omega-3 fatty acids were associated with greater NAWM microstructural integrity (Q4 vs. Q1: 0.40; 95%CI: 0.03, 0.76; p=0.04). Other foods/nutrients were not associated with MRI outcomes.

Conclusions: In this first study focused on neuroimaging and diet in MS, we note significant associations in a cross-sectional early MS cohort. Longitudinal follow-up of imaging/clinical outcomes will provide additional insights.

Keywords: Diet, MRI; Mediterranean; Multiple sclerosis; Thalamus.

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnostic imaging