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Sugary drink intake may be associated with MS severity



Among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, juice, and sweetened tea and coffee may be associated with more severe disability, according to a cross-sectional study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Overall diet quality, however, is not associated with disability, the study showed.

The results do not establish that sugary drinks cause disability, and the potential association needs to be confirmed in larger, longitudinal studies, the researchers said. Nevertheless, “we do know that sodas have no nutritional value, and people with MS may want to consider reducing or eliminating them from their diet,” study lead author Elisa Meier-Gerdingh, MD, of St. Josef Hospital in Bochum, Germany, said in a written statement.

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Diet may influence metabolic comorbidities, immune function, oxidative stress, and gut microbiota in patients with MS, but data about diet’s effects on MS progression are limited, the researchers said.

To examine dietary intake and disability in patients with MS, Dr. Meier-Gerdingh and her colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of 135 participants with MS who were treated at a large referral center in Germany. Participants had a mean age of 44.6 years and mean body mass index of 24.5. Mean disease duration was 13.8 years, and 73% were women. Participants completed a 102-item food frequency questionnaire, which the investigators used to calculate each participant’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) score. The score is a composite measure of dietary quality that favorably scores intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, whole grains, and dairy and unfavorably scores intake of sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats.

“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,” Dr. Meier-Gerdingh said.

The researchers considered severe disability to be an Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 6 or greater. They assessed the association between overall DASH scores and disability status using logistic regression models that adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, smoking, and symptom duration. They also assessed the association between disability and each nutritional component of the DASH score.

In all, 30 participants had severe disability. “Overall DASH scores were not associated with disability status,” Dr. Meier-Gerdingh and her colleagues said. When they looked at individual DASH score components, patients with higher intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages had a higher risk of severe disability (P for trend = .01). Participants in the highest quartile consumed about 290 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages per day on average, compared with 7 calories per day for patients in the lowest quartile. The top quartile had an average EDSS of 4.1, and the bottom quartile had an average EDSS of 3.4. Other DASH score components were not associated with disability status.

Dr. Meier-Gerdingh had no disclosures. Her coauthors reported research support and personal compensation from pharmaceutical companies.

SOURCE: Meier-Gerdingh E et al. AAN 2019, Abstract P4.2-063.

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