Several genetic and environmental factors cause multiple sclerosis and a new report suggests these may include eating meat and having a less diverse gut.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. There is no singular cause of MS, but some research suggests outside factors such as where a person lives or their diet can influence their risk of having it. Gut bacteria are of particular interest because certain bacterial species regulate the immune response and are affected by a person’s diet.
The team studied the gut microbiome, immune response, diet, and blood metabolites of 25 people with multiple sclerosis and 24 healthy people who served as a control group. The strongest association towards multiple sclerosis came from eating meat.mPeople who eat high amounts of meat were more likely to have lower amounts of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in their microbiome. This bacterial species plays an important role in breaking down carbohydrates from vegetables.
“We found a number of gut bacteria associated with MS and severity of disability of MS patients. We also found increased autoimmune markers and signature metabolites in MS. But what is really interesting is how these systems connect with each other, and how diet is involved in these connections. Using multi-OMICS approaches, we try to close the loop and show the associations between multiple systems,” says Yanjiao Zhou, a researcher at UConn Health School of Medicine and study author in a statement.
In people with MS, eating a lot of meat correlated with an increase in T-helper 17 immune cells and an increase in S-adenosyl-L-methionine in the blood.
The study was not causational, so it’s impossible to determine that meat leads to MS. In fact, several people in the control group also ate high levels of meat with no increased risk of MS. Instead, the researchers suggest that in people with MS, eating meat may reduce important bacterial species, causing the immune system to go haywire and attack itself.
The study is published in the journal EBioMedicine.