The Washington Post

20 percent

- — Linda Searing

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who embrace a Mediterran­ean diet may be about 20 percent less likely to develop problems with memory and thinking skills than those who do not, according to a study scheduled to be presented next month at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system that develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks and harms the protective sheath (myelin) around nerve cells. The disease affects people in different ways — from vision problems, muscle weakness and spasms to dizziness, bladder control issues and more — but more than half of those with MS develop cognitive problems, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. These problems often get worse over time, prompting many with the condition to make lifestyle changes — including dietary changes — that might improve their outcomes. A Mediterran­ean diet, which is based on the traditiona­l cuisine of countries that border the Mediterran­ean Sea, is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish, and it relies on olive oil as the main source of fat. It limits consumptio­n of red meats, highly processed foods and baked goods. Over the years, numerous studies have attributed heart-healthy benefits to a Mediterran­ean diet, but this new research, which involved 563 people with MS, found cognitive benefits. When given a battery of cognitive tests, 13 percent of the study participan­ts who reported most closely adhering to the Mediterran­ean diet had cognitive impairment, compared with 34 percent of those who reported a diet that was least similar to the Mediterran­ean plan. The study’s findings are considered preliminar­y because the research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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