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A High-Fat Diet Might Make Multiple Sclerosis Worse

Many people today are aware of the dangers associated with a high-fat diet, such as increased risk of heart disease and cancer. But for patients with multiple sclerosis, the effects of fatty foods may be even worse.

A new study, done in part by researchers at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The Graduate Center, CUNY, found a connection between high body-mass index (BMI) and worsened disease activity in MS patients. The researchers also identified a biological mechanism that links levels of lipids in the blood with declining disease state.

The results, published in EbioMedicine, suggest that diet may affect the progression of a patient’s MS, the researchers say. Further investigation could confirm whether dietary intervention would improve disease outlooks for certain patients.

Kamilah Castro, lead author on the study, conducted the research as a graduate student at the ASRC in Professor Patrizia Casaccia‘s lab, in a joint program with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The published work is part of Castro’s Ph.D. thesis. Casaccia and postdoctoral research associate Mario Amatruda were also among the authors on the study, along with clinicians at the Icahn School.

The team followed a group of MS patients for two years. At the end of the study, the patients with high BMI displayed both worse clinical disability and increased disease activity compared to those with regular BMI.

The scientists also observed that the group with high BMI had higher levels of a certain type of blood lipid called ceramides. Elevated levels of ceramides, the team found, resulted in high amounts of molecular markers on a type of blood cell known as monocytes. Monocytes are involved in neurodegeneration in MS, and the molecular markers cause them to multiply faster, worsening the state of a patient’s MS.

Because the body can synthesize ceramides from saturated fats that a person eats, a high-fat diet may be the cause of increased ceramide levels in high BMI patients. If so, changing dietary habits could help slow disease progress for some MS patients. Future research will reveal to scientists whether such intervention is effective.

Beyond SUM

Work By

Kamilah Castro (Ph.D. student, Neuroscience) | Profile 1
Patrizia Casaccia (ASRC Neuroscience Initiative Director, Neuroscience) | Profile 1
Mario Amatruda (Postdoctoral research associate, Biotechnology) | Profile 1

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The Graduate Center