Whole Grain Food Diet May Reduce Risk of Pediatric-Onset MS: Study

by Ella

A recent study led by Canadian researchers suggests that a higher intake of whole grain foods is significantly associated with a lower likelihood of developing pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (POMS). Conversely, diets with a higher pro-inflammatory content, including increased amounts of fats and proteins, were linked to higher odds of developing POMS, although this association did not reach statistical significance.

The study highlights the potential benefits of a whole grain-rich diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, which may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). The Mediterranean diet, known for its health benefits, includes abundant fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and red wine. This diet typically avoids red meat, animal fats, and processed sugars.


The findings are detailed in a paper titled “Assessment of dietary intake and its inflammatory potential in persons with pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis,” published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.


Exploring Whole Grain vs. Inflammatory Food Diets in POMS

Pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis is a form of MS that begins in childhood or adolescence, characterized by a relapsing-remitting course with periods of new or worsening symptoms followed by remission. Children with POMS often experience a more active disease course compared to adults.


Previous studies have suggested associations between dietary habits and the risk of developing MS, with reports indicating that disease activity in POMS can be influenced by diet. However, it remained unclear whether eating more or less inflammatory foods impacts POMS specifically.


To investigate this, a team of researchers from Canada and the U.S. assessed the dietary habits of participants in the Canadian Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Network. The study included 38 POMS patients, 45 individuals with monophasic acquired demyelinating syndrome (monoADS), and 48 control subjects without either condition.

Participants, all under 18 at the onset of symptoms, completed a dietary questionnaire. The researchers used the modified dietary inflammatory index (mDII) to estimate the diet’s impact on inflammation. The mDII score combines the inflammatory index of 25 dietary parameters, such as total energy, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, cholesterol, and various vitamins and minerals. Foods like red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary items have higher pro-inflammatory scores, while whole grains, fatty fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are considered anti-inflammatory.

Study Results

The study found that POMS patients consumed significantly less whole grains and milk compared to controls and those with monoADS. After adjusting for age, only a higher consumption of whole grains remained significantly associated with a lower likelihood of developing POMS.

POMS patients also had higher mDII scores, suggesting a potential link between a pro-inflammatory diet and higher POMS risk, though this association was not statistically significant. This trend was not observed in monoADS patients.

“Whether our findings imply that whole grain-enriched diets could protect against POMS or whether individuals with POMS cannot tolerate whole grains or choose to avoid such foods cannot be determined from this study,” the researchers noted. “Nonetheless, the findings are of interest as avoidance of whole grains could negatively impact overall health.”

Study Limitations and Future Directions

The researchers acknowledged several limitations, including the study’s small sample size and the potential for response/recall bias, as the dietary questionnaire was completed after disease onset. They called for further investigation to clarify the direction of the observed effects and to explore dietary intake before or around the time of diagnosis.

“This warrants further investigation,” the researchers wrote, emphasizing the need to determine whether a whole grain-rich diet can protect against POMS and to understand the broader implications for dietary recommendations in managing pediatric-onset MS.

Implications for Dietary Recommendations

The study suggests that incorporating whole grains into the diet may have protective effects against the development of POMS, aligning with the broader health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet. These findings highlight the importance of dietary considerations in managing and potentially reducing the risk of MS in young patients.

Healthcare providers may consider discussing dietary habits with patients at risk of POMS and those already diagnosed with the condition. Encouraging a diet rich in whole grains and low in pro-inflammatory foods could be a valuable component of comprehensive care for pediatric MS patients.


The study provides new insights into the potential role of diet in managing pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis. While more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the mechanisms involved, promoting a whole grain-rich diet could offer a simple and effective strategy to support the health of young patients with MS. By emphasizing the benefits of whole grains and other anti-inflammatory foods, healthcare providers can help patients make informed dietary choices that may improve their overall health and potentially reduce the risk of disease progression.



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