New research to uncover links between MS, red meat and omega 3s

07 February 2020

MSWA has allocated further funding to an important Curtin University study investigating links between MS and diet, with a new focus on how red meat and omega-3 fatty acids impact early progression of the disease.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Lucinda Black says the MSWA funding for another three years will enable the employment of a PhD student to expand the study.

“With the student’s assistance, we are excited to start investigating the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids through the analysis of blood samples, as well as focus on the impact of eating red meat,” Dr Black said.

“We can then provide vital evidence-based information to people who are managing MS symptoms as the condition progresses.”

Three years ago, with a $400,000 MSWA Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr Black was one of the first to investigate the links between the risk of MS and diet using robust dietary data from a large, well-characterised study of early MS.

In this time, after the analysis of two independent but similar studies, the Ausimmune Study and the MS Sunshine Study, she uncovered a number of dietary factors that may be related to risk of MS.

“We have found following a healthy diet that includes the consumption of oily fish and a moderate amount of unprocessed red meat, one serving per day, is linked with reduced risk of developing MS, although this may be specific to Australia where cattle are usually grass-fed.”

“This new funding will enable us to continue to explore the link between red meat and MS in early progression of the condition.”

“Through extensive measurement of blood samples, we will also start looking at how omega-3s might influence early disease progression.”

Dr Black also plans to investigate the effect of ultra-processed food and MS, which may have potentially ground-breaking implications in preventing and ongoing management of the condition.

MSWA Chief Executive Officer Marcus Stafford AM said Dr Black’s research provides important information and support for people with MS, helping them to navigate the overwhelming amount of conflicting dietary advice available.

“We are delighted to continue to support Dr Black’s research, which provides important and reliable information for people with MS,” Mr Stafford said.

“MSWA dietitians and nurses provide advice based on Dr Black’s work, ensuring we help our Customers make informed choices to help alleviate their symptoms.”

Dr Black’s research forms a valuable component of MSWA’s research investment program, which reached a record $3.5 million in the 2018-19 year. The funding will go to a variety of local and international projects to research causes, treatments and cures for all neurological conditions.

You can read more about Dr Black’s research here: A healthy dietary pattern associates with a lower risk of first clinical diagnosis of central nervous system demyelination.