While researchers have been puzzled over the precise contributing factors behind Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for many years, it is widely believed that risk factors are both genetic and environmental. Recently, more evidence has been uncovered which points to the role of environmental factors, and specifically, diet, in a person’s likelihood of developing the condition. A new study on the influence of diet has been published in The Journal of Nutrition and indicates a link between red meat consumption and a reduced risk of first clinical diagnosis of central nervous system demyelination (FCD), a precursor to MS.
MS Risk & Red Meat Consumption: A Noteworthy Association
Researchers used data from more than 280 individuals who had experienced FCD, and more than 550 control participants who hadn’t. The participants were ranked according to a points-based diet score which measured how many servings of red meat they consumed as part of a Mediterranean diet. The scores of the people who consumed three or more servings of unprocessed red meat were found to have a reduced risk of FCD, compared to those who consumed two or fewer.
Why Could Red Meat Help?
According to one of the lead study researchers, the nutrients found in red meat, including omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, protein, potassium, vitamin D, and selenium, are all known to contribute to brain functioning. One critical component to the potential benefits is choosing high-quality meats, however. The research shows sources such as grass-fed beef are linked to the reduced risk, and the study participants largely maintained good eating patterns, as they followed a Mediterranean diet. This approach to eating is known to boost cardiovascular health and prioritizes the intake of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, among other key components.
Who Do These Findings Affect?
The study findings show that for individuals who had a first-degree relative with MS, the risk would drop from 2 to 4% down to 1 to 2.5%. The greatest benefit is seen among individuals who have an identical twin with MS: for this population, the risk drops from 30 to 50% down to 14 to 32%. The findings also suggest that the more unprocessed red meat the individual consumes, the greater the reduction of risk may be.
Ultimately, the benefits of eating red meat appear to be greatest for the populations with a close relative with MS. It’s worth noting, however, that authorities such as the World Health Organization have issued warnings against red meat, and suggest that it could be carcinogenic to humans. Dietary modifications such as these should, therefore, be discussed with a doctor before being introduced into an individual’s daily routine.