Lipoic acid for MS

Hi! Hoping all had a merry Christmas and will have a wonderful New Year, full of everything good, and the strength to do everything possible for vibrant and glowing health and happiness. !

Been asked by lots of people to elaborate on the short report about an easy to get hold of supplement, Lipoic acid, in MS, that was part of this blog post; most importantly, where to get supplies of the dose that was used in the study ( 1,200mg daily).

antioxidant

“Lipoic acid for neuroprotection in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: results of a randomised placebo-controlled pilot trial,1” was reported on by Dr. Rebecca Spain, MD, MSPH, a neurologist in the Oregon Health & Science University Multiple Sclerosis Center, also working with the VA Portland Health Care System, at ECTRIMS 2016.

Pic source:   http://www.desimd.com

Patients in the study had secondary progressive MS, were, on average, 58.5 years old, and had an average Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 6. ( walking with 1 stick)

The trial was randomised; around half (27) took 1,200 mg of lipoic acid, around half (24) took a placebo for 96 weeks, and neither the patients nor the clinicians knew who was taking which. They measured brain atrophy ( shrinkage), which is a way of showing loss of neurones in the central nervous system, and also neurodegeneration in the spinal cord and eye,  neurological functions, cognition, walking, fatigue, and quality of life.

Five participants in the lipoic acid group, equaling 9.8 percent, quit the study early, but the remaining patients took about 80 percent of their daily lipoic acid doses.

Researchers found that the annualized rate of whole brain tissue loss was significantly lower in patients receiving lipoic acid. After two years, treated patients had lost about 0.4 percent of their total brain volume, while those in the control group lost 1.3 percent during the same time; brain atrophy was reduced by 66%, almost to within normal limits. Those receiving lipoic acid were also found to walk faster, and had half the number of falls.

The treatment did not increase the occurrence of adverse events, but researchers noted that lipoic acid was linked to more stomach problems.

The author, Rebecca Spain when interviewed by Multiple Sclerosis News Today, said,

“The slowing of whole brain atrophy was remarkable. We can use this pilot study as the basis for designing a multisite clinical trial, which will help us answer questions about how lipoic acid works and whether it can indeed improve clinical outcomes for people,”

So; what is the mode of action of Lipoic acid?

Why might it be working so well in MS, and where can you get hold of higher doses?

Lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant, meaning that it helps to protect cells, including those in the brain, against damage from ‘oxidants’, or ‘free radicals’ which are unstable, oxygen-containing molecules, that damage other cells to protect themselves. Free radicals are both produced in the body as a result of metabolism, energy creation and, importantly, inflammation, and also come from environmental factors, such as air pollution, radiation, UV light and cigarette smoke. Anti-oxidants can help to fend off viruses and microbes, but an imbalance, with too many anti-oxidants, has been linked to the development of more than 50 diseases, the most commonly discussed being heart disease and cancer.

eat-a-rainbow

In food, antioxidants are present in various degrees in all plant-based food; a 2010 study analysing the anti-oxidant content of over 31,000 foodstuffs begins  ‘A plant-based diet protects against chronic oxidative stress-related diseases’

and goes on to report a                                                                                  ‘several thousand-fold differences in antioxidant content of foods. Spices, herbs and supplements include the most antioxidant rich products in our study, some exceptionally high. Berries, fruits, nuts, chocolate, vegetables and products thereof constitute common foods and beverages with high antioxidant values. 
spices

So daily diet, as always, is super important, and nothing can replicate the benefits of eating the nutrients from real, fresh food; in this case, berries, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. The range is as important as the quantity, so ‘Eat the Rainbow’

But if you want to replicate this study, where participants took 1,200mg of supplemental lipoic acid, you need to find a high dose ( and probably, reasonably priced) supplement. If money is no object, then it’s a good idea to spend more and buy from a reputable, high-end source. If, like me, you need to keep an eye on the pennies, then I’ve done a scout round for cheap, high dose, vegetarian.

I don’t have any vested interest in any supplement companies, and am not qualified to judge their products or to recommend supplements; you always need to take your own responsibility for your choices, based on your condition. However, lipoic acid seems to be a safe supplement.

A scout around the internet produced a few brands that make 600mg tablets, which would give a dose of 1,200mg with 2 tablets daily. I always go for a vegetarian friendly option, and came up with these via Amazon.co.uk

‘Doctor’s Best’ from i-herb, at £8.11 for 60 veggie capsules

and

‘Natrol’ timed release, via amazon, at £9.95 for 60 timed release veggie capsules

I am going to be protecting my brain, I hope you’ll protect yours!

Hope this helps!

all the best,

Miranda
 

 

 

 

 

Weight loss on Overcoming MS Diet

Hell, Happy New Year!  Proud to be asked to blog for Overcoming MS recently, and replicate my blog  here. It’s inspired by my patients, of course, and the ups and downs you  experience in moderating your health by adjusting lifestyle factors to address the serious condition, MS, and this is the first in a series of 2!

OK, so one problem people worry about, is losing too much weight.

What is “too much” weight to lose? What is ‘normal’ ?

obesity www.mirandasmsblog.com

We know that the average weight keeps on rising, with the USA leading the way; the average weight for women in their 20s has increased by 13kg (29lb) since 1960 (1).

A recent Gallup poll found that the average American man’s weight was up 7kg (16lb) since 1980 to 88kg (196lb), and women’s up 6kg (14lb) to 70kg (156lb).

But the really interesting finding from that poll was that people’s perception of normal has also moved. The weights people stated as their ideal had shifted almost as much as their actual weights – men’s were up by 6kg (14lb) and women’s up by 4kg (11 lb). And despite being over their ideal weights by these figures, most people reported that their weight was ‘about right’. (2)

In our culture we’re used to seeing skinny models – in a weird stylised magazine world – but not skinny normal people, unless they’re unwell. But thin does not necessarily mean weak or unwell. In my 20s I spent quite a bit of time in India, and I remember being impressed at how incredibly strong the very skinny, but wiry, bicycle rickshaw drivers and train porters were…and feeling quite ashamed of my weak, chubby, western ways!

sleeping rickshaw driver www.mirandasmsblog.com

Perceptions aside, another thing to remember is that weight loss will probably stabilise.

 

 

 

 

Increase your good fats

Firstly, remember the OMS diet is not a low fat diet – it’s a low saturated fat diet. Here’s what George Jelinek kindly replied to me in an email one time:

“There is no real limit to the amount of fat we should be consuming. Remember it is not a low fat diet, but a low saturated fat diet. That said, if you eat a plant-based wholefood diet with seafood, it will be really hard to eat a high fat diet, almost impossible unless you eat bucket loads of avocados, nuts and oily fish every day. Most people just physically can’t eat that much of that sort of food because it fills you up so much.”

So it’s okay to double-up on the flax seed oil, increase your nuts, seeds, avocados and oily fish if you feel you are losing too much weight.

Eat protein-rich food

It’s obvious I know, but if you’ve been used to eating ‘meat and two veg’, it’s important not to slip into just two veg. For inspiration from a culture with a history of getting its protein from a plant based source, we can again look to India, which has around 500 miliion vegetarians, and perhaps the most sophisticated and ancient vegetarian cuisine, based on the ancient medical understanding of Ayurveda, and using anti-inflammatory spices and flavourings which complement the flavours of vegetables and grains.

Vegetarian Indian meals will always include a dhal or pulse dish, rice, a vegetable dish, and a chapati or pure. I don’t worry about making so much each time, but I always try to include a source of protein. Pulses are a cheap and filling way to do this, and my next post will be on the best way to cook pulses for optimum digestion, and digestion in general!

Eating enough

Need I say more?

Exercising for muscle mass

This subject deserves it’s own post I think. I’m going to direct you to a great blog I found called ‘No Meat Athlete’ by a vegan athlete Matt Frazier. Here he talks about the method he found effective to incerase muscle mass as a vegan, managing to put on 7kg (17lb) in six weeks. www.nomeatathlete.com/gain-weight-vegan

For the time being, all the best!

 

1)  Centre for Disease Prevention and Control USA

2)http://www.gallup.com/poll/150947/Self-Reported-Weight-Nearly-Pounds-1990.aspx

Tags: , ,

New research shows major impact of diet in MS

Good to see corroboration about diet in MS

http://www.msra.org.au/bad-fats-major-culprit-ms-progression

 Australian researchers find ‘bad’ fats major culprit in MS progression

16th May, 2014

van der mei, ingrid

Dr Ingrid van der Mei

Researchers from the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania have found adverse levels of ‘bad’ fats in the blood are closely linked to the level of disability in people with MS and the rate of disability progression.

These significant findings published today in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal andJournal of the Neurological Sciences suggest dietary and lifestyle modifications that improve fat profiles in the blood may also slow the rate of disability progression.

Senior researcher at the Menzies, Dr van der Mei says, ‘This is a very significant finding for the 23,000 Australians living with MS – as it shows reducing bad fats can significantly reduce not only the future level of disability but also the rate at which it progresses.’

‘Our new findings confirm that dietary measures to control fats in the blood is also another important measure Australians living with MS should act upon.’

Fats are an essential component of the brain and contribute to its repair and maintenance. However, some evidence suggests that levels of ‘bad’ fats may be linked to onset and progression of the condition. In this study, with PhD student Prudence Tettey as lead author, the team examined the fat profiles from blood samples of 141 people with relapsing remitting MS. The samples were collected at six monthly intervals over two and a half years as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council funded Tasmanian MS Longitudinal Study. This study is a highly valuable long-term data resource with detailed information on relapses, disability, MRI scans, lifestyle, immune function, virology and genetics.

The results identified that the amounts of a number of different fats in the blood, including the High and Low Density Lipoproteins (HDL and LDL) and triglycerides, were closely associated with disability level at baseline, and with disability progression over time.  However, neither the level of fat in the blood nor a person’s body mass index (BMI) were associated with risk of relapse.

This suggests that the fats in the blood may instead influence ongoing degeneration of brain tissue that drives the progressive phase of the disease. These results may have exciting implications for modifiable lifestyle factors that can influence disease severity. However, further clinical studies are recommended to confirm that interventions, such as reducing BMI and increasing physical activity, are able to produce benefits for slowing disability progression.

This research has been funded by a MS Research Australia project grant in 2012 to investigate whether fats play a role in the risk of relapses in MS and disability progression.

Media Coverage

What I’d do if I got diagnosed with MS

to-do-list DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION!! MS can have a very serious impact on your future quality of life. All measures you can take to stay well, have the most impact when they are done early on, and stuck to consistently. Nobody knows what causes MS. As far as the disease process goes, It’s widely believed that the early inflammation causes damage, which causes later degeneration, but we now know that degeneration is also a factor right from the start. However, there is a lot you can do to combat both inflammation and degeneration, both with medical treatment and your lifestyle & nutrition. Having worked as an MS specialist nurse for about 13 years now, here’s what I’d do if I got a diagnosis of MS:

1) ADRESS INFLAMMATION & DEGENERATION WITH DIET &LIFESTYLE. Get George Jelinek’s book ,’Overcoming MS’ and follow all the dietary and lifestyle recommendations to the letter. I consider this to be a rock solid foundation for good health, whether you have MS or not, and essential for people with MS. It’s also so great to keep hearing individuals stories of improvement, even with long-standing and progressive MS, following this approach, and both Jelinek’s, and more and more research on diet and disease backs up this evidence based approach. See www.overcomingms.org

2) Some – not all – but some, people with otherwise unexplained medical conditions, have an underlying food intolerance, and you can be completely unaware of the problem. If you do have an intolerance, for example, to gluten, then every time you eat that food, you set up a chain of inflammation in the body, which can certainly exacerbate any auto immune condition.  For that reason, I, personally, would also want to identify food intolerances. Finger prick blood tests are available online from companies like York labs and Lorisian. However, there’s a lot of controversy about them, and they have been found sometimes to be unreliable, with a tendency to just show up with whatever you’ve eaten recently. A more reliable way is to spend some weeks doing s ‘exclusion diet’, to see if you can find any cuplprits. Here’s one example: https://avivaromm.com/elimination-diet/ . We know that MS is a conditions with ups and downs anyway, and an exclusion diet is an effort, so both approaches have their pros and cons, but in my experience, when people who have a food intolerance identify and avoid that food, they get a lot better all round, so its worth doing.

If you do identify food intolerance, you need to also learn about gut health, and start building yours up by using a plant based diet and things like probiotics, more on that another time, then, hopefully, your exclusions don’t have to be forever.

3) Find out about your options re drugs. I am not going to be talking about diseases modifying treatment (‘DMT’) choices here, only broad concepts.

MS drugs aim to stop or reduce  inflammation, manifested as relapses, in the hope that this will prevent the degeneration. See the infographic in my Alemtuzimab about the relationship between safety and efficiency of the various treatments available.

An important point to consider is that some of these more effective drugs are ‘second line’ treatments, which means they are only available to you on the NHS if you have already tried the standard drugs. There are also sometimes drug trials recruiting, where you can access a drug as part of an experimental trial. (see other posts) There is a link on the MS Society website to find out what trials are ongoing and how to get involved in a trial.

MS drug treatment is a fast changing topic and you need to have a serious discussion  with your MS Nurse and/or neurologist to find out what you are eligible for, and then read round the subject and discuss to make an informed choice.

Make sure the information you use to make your decision is as objective as possible, and not coming directly from the companies making the drug. www.msdecisions.org is a decision making tool that’s been put together by the MS Trust, the MS Society, the UK MS Specialist Nurses Association and the Department of Health, so its’ as objective as you are likely to find.

Last important point: The earlier in the disease process that a drug is used, the more effective it is likely to be.

4) Consider a clear out. Environmental factors combining with genetic susceptibility is what is thought to trigger MS , and as we are still unsure exactly what those environmental factors are,  there is still a lot of interest and research going on into the role of viruses etc in MS. Even if this turns out to have nothing to do with the cause of MS, any inflammatory condition will be worsened by an overload of any organisms that should not be there, whether they are yeasts, bacteria, virus, or parasites. People who are concerned that they may have an overgrowth of yeast, wrong gut bacteria, etc may want have a ‘clear out’ by doing a  3 month ‘detox’ with a strong natural detox agent. I like something called SOS-Advance, which is a colloidal suspension of strong anti bacterial, anti viral, anti parasitic plant oils like oregano, neem etc, but there are plenty of other herbal ‘de-tox’ products. Be aware, before starting any detox product, that it’s possible to feel really grotty for up to a week at first, if you have a ‘die-off’ reaction. If this happens, drink more water, rest, make your diet light and fresh, treat any constipation, and shower/bathe frequently.

5) Eat Really good Food – it’s not all about avoiding stuff-  food has so much power to affect the cells of our bodies for brain and nervous system health, so read up on a wholesome plant based diet, and ‘eat the rainbow’, especially dark green leafy veg.

6) Becoming more resilient to stress. Super important. We know that unmanaged stress causes and inflammatory cascade in the body, and there’s enough research to identify it, along with infection, as a trigger for MS relapses. There’s load of research now on the power of meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation. Personally, and especially if you struggle to fit meditation or deep relaxation into your day, I like the HeartMath technique, where you learn to synchronise your heart rate variability, and get feedback as to how you’re doing. In my clinics, I use the desktop teaching program, and send people away with the simple technique to do regularly, but you can now purchase an app version, available from itunes: https://store.heartmath.com/innerbalance

7)Read up on intermittent fasting, even if it’s just to use if and when you’re aware that you have inflammation or relapse going on.

So, TO SUMMARISE, and adding the Jelinek/Overcomingms recommendations:

AVOID:

  • saturated fat ( meat & dairy, coconut & palm oil)
  • other fats in processed food
  • unmanaged stress
  • physical inacitivty (as much as possible)
  • foods which you test intolerant to
  • smoking
  • eating too many calories for your needs

TAKE:

  • a plant-based, whole food diet
  • eating a ‘rainbow’ with special focus on dark green!
  • high dose vitamin D3, keeping blood levels around 150nmol/litre
  • 20g omega 3 – 2 dessert spoons of cold pressed flax seed/linseed oil fulfils this
  • probiotics
  • Any appropriate MS treatment drug
  • meditation/deep relaxation 30 mins daily to improve resilience to stress, or regular Heartmath technique.
  • as vigorous as possible exercise 30 mins, at least 3-4 x a week, outside if poss
  • the sun – as close to all over as poss, 10-15 minutes when possible
  • Lipoic acid 1,200mg – see this post

and take courage – many people with MS go on to live healthy lives well into old age. I would encourage you to do these actions to help you to be one of these. 🙂

Invitation to free online event ‘Gluten summit’

This looks interesting, and I will be looking in on it as much as I can! ( Maybe whilst cooking tea… pasta with baguettes and doughballs – jokes!)

THE WORLD’S FIRST GLUTEN SUMMIT
COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Dr. Tom O’Bryan of theDr.com has gathered 29 of the world’s experts and opinion leaders on the topics of gluten-related disorders, nutrition and healthy living for a series of online interviews taking place for FREE from November 11-17, 2013.


During the summit, you will:

  • Learn about the latest research on gluten-related disorders;
  • Understand why we MUST call more attention to them;
  • Gain improved knowledge of proper diagnosis/treatment methods;
  • More frequently ask, “Could this health issue be due to gluten?”

The goal of The Gluten Summit is to shift the scientific discussion and clinical recognition of gluten-related disorders forward by five years. Meaning, we want the conversation between patients and doctors that will be happening five years from now to happen now.

REGISTER

And Join Us For FREE Now!

Tom O’Bryan, DC, CCN, DACBN

Host, The Gluten Summit; Educator/Physician, theDr.com

THE WORLD’S FIRST GLUTEN SUMMIT COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE! Dr. Tom O’Bryan of theDr.com has gathered 29 of the world’s experts and opinion leaders on the topics of gluten-related disorders, nutrition and healthy living for a series of online interviews taking place for FREE from November 11-17, 2013.

Check out ‘what healthy poo should look like’ ( bottom haha left hand corner)

Nurse’s favourite picture of course.

I love this place. Have started using their oil, will be exploring flax seed butter asap…

Linseed a Natural Remedy for IBS, Constipation, Diverticulitis and Detox | Flax Farm.

Diet in Auto-immune disease

11.coverHow come other auto-immune diseases get articles like this in medical journals??

Even though this is about rheumatoid arthritis, it’s well worth reading if you have MS.

It confirms many things I’ve said here before. It is technical, and hard going but – scan it, and get the gist. For me, the low sat. fat diet is a cornerstone in MS, as per http://www.overcomingms.org. but I’m getting to think that individual intolerances can be wreaking havoc in some people, too. You read a lot of good discussions like this in natural health experts, but never in the medical literature for MS.

enjoy!  Reproduced from:

http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/Diet therapy for the patient with rheumatoid arthritis?

In spite of the great advances that have been made in the development of new drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), many patients are interested in alternative treatments like dietary therapy. Although relatively few studies have been carried out on the possible impact of dietary therapy on disease activity in RA, interest in this matter is growing as our understanding of disease pathology and the effect of nutrients on immunity and inflammation increases.

Most clinical dietary therapy studies undertaken so far have focused on some form of dietary elimination. Scandinavian health farms have long promoted fasting and vegetarian diets for patients with rheumatic diseases.

In 1979 and 1983, Sköldstam et al. [12] carried out two studies to verify whether diet therapy could alleviate disease activity and symptoms in patients with RA. In one study, 16 RA patients fasted for 7–10 days and followed a lactovegetarian diet for the subsequent 9 weeks. There was a significant improvement in both objective and subjective disease symptoms during the fasting period, followed by rapid deterioration when the patients began on the lactovegetarian diet.

In the second study, 20 patients with RA completed a 7- to 10-day fast, followed by 3 months on a vegan diet (a diet without meat, fish or dairy products). Physician’s general assessment revealed that 11 patients had undergone subjective improvement, seven were unchanged and two were worse after the study period than before. Nineteen patients had lost weight and no improvement was seen in objective variables like erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein during the dietary period. However, 5 (25%) of the patients showed both objective and subjective improvement. Several patients complained about the diet and only two patients had continued with a strict vegetarian diet after the study period. This confirms that many patients experience difficulty in implementing strict dietary changes.

In 1983, Panush et al. [3] conducted a study of the then popular Dong diet (which eliminated dairy products, red meat, citrus fruits, tomatoes, alcohol and coffee). This was an elegantly performed clinical dietary study with a double-blind, placebo-controlled design. Twenty-six patients took part, 11 on the experimental diet and 15 on a control diet. Although there was no statistical difference between the experimental and placebo diet groups, two patients in the experimental group improved noticeably. One patient experienced disease exacerbation after eating dairy products and the other after eating meat, spices and alcoholic beverages.

In 1986, Darlington et al. [4] published the results of a single-blinded, placebo-controlled study of 6 weeks of dietary manipulation in 53 patients with RA. During the first week, the patients were only allowed to eat foods they were unlikely to be intolerant to. In the article, it is not stated which food items these were. Other food items were then reintroduced one at a time to see whether any symptoms were elicited by the dietary challenge. Foods producing symptoms were then excluded from the diet. Both objective and subjective variables improved significantly, and a subgroup of 33 patients were graded as good responders. However, the patients were only observed for 6 weeks, which is a weakness in a study undertaken on patients with a chronic disease.

In 1991, we published the results of a single-blinded controlled clinical trial testing the effect on disease activity in patients with RA of dietary elimination combined with the vegetarian diet traditionally practised on Scandinavian health farms [5]. Fifty-seven patients took part in the study, 27 in the diet group and 26 in the control group. The patients were followed for 13 months, making this by far the most comprehensive study undertaken with regard to dietary therapy in RA.

We found statistically significant improvement in both objective and subjective disease variables in the diet group compared with the control group. Twelve patients (44%) in the diet group were responders, according to the Paulus criteria, compared with 2 (8%) in the control group [6]. Ten patients (37%) in the diet group reported aggravation of symptoms after reintake of one or more food items. Eight of these belonged to the responder group.

After 2 yr, we conducted a follow-up study on the same patients and found that the responders had continued with the diet and still had a significant reduction in all clinical disease variables and ESR [7]. In this study, 13 patients (59%) in the diet group reported an increase in disease symptoms after intake of meat, and 10 patients (45%) after intake of sugar and coffee. Of the 10 responders examined in the follow-up study, eight reported an increase in disease symptoms after intake of different kinds of meat, and six after intake of coffee, sweets and refined sugar.

Fasting has been documented to have beneficial effects on both clinical and laboratory variables reflecting disease activity in RA [158]. It thus serves as a useful model for studying the biological changes associated with simultaneous improvement in disease activity. Previous studies in healthy subjects have revealed that fasting decreases mitogen- and antigen-induced lymphocyte proliferative responses [9], and suppresses interleukin-2 (IL-2) production [10]. We have recently shown that a 7 day fast in RA patients also decreases CD4+ lymphocyte activation and numbers, suggesting transient immunosuppression [11]. We also found an increase in IL-4 production from mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood cells. Thus, further studies should be carried out to clarify the immunomodulatory mechanism behind fasting.

Evidence suggesting that food allergy, defined as an immunological response to food antigens or to intestinal bacterial flora, might be involved in disease pathology in most patients with RA is weak. However, it is possible that an exogenous agent like a food antigen can initiate a pathological immune process in a genetically susceptible individual [12].

Food antigens, food antibodies and their complexes have been detected in the systemic circulation of healthy subjects [1314]. Animal models indicate that the gut is an important trigger of and pathway for the immune response. Encounters with complex proteins, like gluten and milk proteins, lead to either oral tolerance or sensitization and possible loss of self-tolerance to cross-reacting epitopes [15].

An association between a special food item and disease activity has been reported by patients with a variety of rheumatic diseases, such as palindromic rheumatism [1617], systemic lupus erythematosus [1819], Sjögren’s syndrome [20] and juvenile RA (JRA) [2122]. Case reports describing an association between diet and disease activity in RA include both seropositive and seronegative disease [2325]. Although the extent of food allergy involvement is still not known, it has been suggested that between 5 and 30% of patients with RA may be affected [2627].

We found an increase in humoral response in all patients with RA, with a general increase in IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies to various food antigens, like gluten and milk proteins. However, the elevated concentrations of specific immunoglobolins could not be used to predict which food items would aggravate the disease symptoms [28].

Wheat and other rough grain products can elicit an allergic T-cell response through their lectin structures. Lectins are glycoprotein molecules that bind to carbohydrate-specific receptors on lymphocytes with high affinity and thus elicit a significant immune response. Lentils and grain products have a particularly high lectin content. Lectins are fairly heat resistant; for example, lentils have to be cooked for a long time to inactivate the lectins.

While the results of a questionnaire-based survey revealed that 37–43% of patients with rheumatic diseases experienced an increase in disease symptoms after intake of certain food items, no difference could be found between the various diseases [29]. This suggests that diet may influence the inflammatory process in general and is not a specific feature of RA.

One of the mechanisms involved may be the release or secretion of vasoactive amines (bioactive amines) like histamine and serotonin [30]. Several of the food items reported to cause disease aggravation have a high histamine content, like pork and beef sausage, meat, tomato and spinach. Since no immunological response to pork and other meat has been demonstrated, a pharmacological response would explain the often reported increase in symptoms resulting from these foods [31]. Other foods like shellfish, strawberries, chocolate and fish can cause a release of histamine.

Citrus fruits, which contain other vasoactive amines (octopamine and phenylephrine), are often said to aggravate symptoms [30]. Consumption of both coffee and alcohol has been shown to liberate adrenaline and/or noradrenaline, which suggests that they have a pharmacological effect [3032]. Consumption of alcohol can also result in the release of histamine, and certain red wines have in addition a high concentration of histamine, which may explain the frequently reported intolerance.

A pharmacological reaction would also explain why the patients reported immediate reactions to these food items, as opposed to the more delayed reactions to dairy products and gluten. This may mean that a different mechanism is involved in symptom aggravation. The reported aggravation of symptoms after intake of refined sugar and sweets in patients with RA may have a metabolic explanation, such as an increased concentration of blood glucose due to impaired glucose handling [3335].

Gut involvement in the pathogenesis of rheumatic diseases was proposed by Rea Smith [36], who reported that surgical removal of intestinal segments with focal infection had a beneficial effect on disease activity. Monroe and Hall [37] reported differences in the stools of 142 patients with chronic arthritis as compared with controls. Månsson and Olhagen [38] found not only an abnormal faecal flora, with an increase inClostridium perfringens in patients with RA, systemic lupus erythematosus and psoriatic arthropathies compared with healthy controls, but also a higher level of alpha-antitoxin in the serum of these patients. Alpha-toxin (phospholipase-C) is produced by a special strain of C. perfringens often found in RA patients. Månsson and Olhagen [38] found a rise in alpha-antitoxin titre in 75% of the patients with RA in the study, but in none of the controls.

A significantly higher carriage rate of C. perfringens in patients with RA than in healthy controls has also been documented by Shinebaum et al.[39]. An altered intestinal bacterial flora has been reported in patients with seropositive erosive RA compared with patients with seronegative RA and controls [40]. An increased concentration of antibodies to Proteus has been described in patients with active RA [4142] and to Klebsiella in patients with ankylosing spondylitis [43]. Several of these reports have suggested that RA and ankylosing spondylitis could be mediated by cross-reactivity between self and bacterial antigens.

The intestinal bacterial flora is known to be affected by diet [4446], and it has been suggested that a diet which could alter the intestinal flora might have an effect on disease activity. This theory was supported by the finding that changes in disease activity correlated with alterations in the intestinal flora measured in patients who switched from an omnivorous to a vegetarian diet [47]. The effects of the intake of functional foods (i.e. food as medicine; in this case, food which promotes the growth of health-promoting bacteria in the intestine or food items that contain natural healthy intestinal bacteria) should be an interesting field for further research.

Much interest has been taken in recent years in the immunomodulatory effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and their therapeutic potential as anti-inflammatory agents [48]. Both clinical and in vitrostudies have established that long-chain n-3 and n-6 fatty acids inhibit T-lymphocyte function [4952].

Research suggests that manipulating the balance of dietary fatty acids in favour of increased n-3 fatty acids and decreased n-6 fatty acids may have a beneficial effect on disease activity in RA [495356]. These studies have shown that long-chain n-3 fatty acids can diminish peripheral blood mononuclear cell proliferation and reduce the production of IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interferon gamma (IFN-γ). However, clinical studies on supplementation of ω-3 fatty acids have not supported the expectations raised by the laboratory findings [5357].

The balance between unsaturated and saturated fatty acids may also affect lymphocyte proliferation (in vitro) [58]. The practical implications of these observations for the in vivo situation are currently unclear, but suggest that a diet which is high in unsaturated fatty acids and very low in saturated fatty acids may have a stronger immunosuppressive effect than that obtained by only n-3 fatty acid supplementation.

In this respect, the Mediterranean diet, with a low content of red meat and a high content of olive oil, is of interest. Olive oil has been shown to reduce lymphocyte proliferation, natural killer cell activity, adhesion molecule expression on lymphocytes and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in animal models [59]. In an intervention study in which dietary saturated fatty acids were partly replaced by olive oil, mononuclear cell expression of ICAM-1 was found to be significantly reduced [60].

It has also been reported that a very low intake of saturated fats is beneficial in multiple sclerosis, where, as in RA, CD4+ lymphocytes are thought to play a pathogenic role [61]. It is thus worth investigating whether a diet low in saturated fats, with a high content of olive oil and with n-3 supplementation, could have immunosuppressive effects in vivoand could thus be of benefit in the treatment of RA.

The pathological hallmark of RA is persistent destructive inflammation in the synovial membranes of joints, which leads to a gradual destruction of the supporting structures of the joints, such as bone and cartilage. Although the aetiology is still unknown, the inflammation resulting from the immunological reaction is quite well described. It is known that neutrophil granulocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes are activated, and that oxygen free radicals are produced [62]. Hence, a low concentration of antioxidants may perpetuate tissue destruction in RA. Free oxygen radicals and oxidative stress may also be of importance for the aetiology and chronicity of the inflammatory rheumatic diseases [6364]. Two epidemiological studies have recently suggested that antioxidants may play a protective role [6566].

The most important antioxidants known today are vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, the bioflavonoids, zinc and selenium. The antioxidant properties of vitamin A and vitamin E lead to a reduction in the oxidation catalysed by free radicals [67]. Vitamin E functions as a physiological antioxidant for the cell membrane and is the most important fat-soluble antioxidant in the cell membrane lipids [6468]. Zinc plays a significant role in antioxidant protection and immunity because it is a constituent of the cytoplasmic enzyme superoxide dismutase [69]. Selenium, on the other hand, is part of the glutathione peroxidase enzyme, which can react with peroxides formed during inflammation. Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble, chain-breaking antioxidant and a quencher of singlet oxygen, and is known, along with alpha-tocopherol, to be the most important element of the non-enzymatic antioxidant defence in biological systems [7071].

Low serum concentrations of selenium and zinc in RA patients were reported as early as 1978 [72] and were further investigated by Tarp et al.[7375]. Mezes and Bartosiewicz [63] found reduced plasma vitamin A content in patients with RA. Honkanen et al. [76] found lower serum levels of vitamin A and E in patients than in healthy controls. Sklodowska et al.[64] found lower vitamin E concentrations in plasma in children with JRA than in controls. Studies have also shown reduced concentrations of zinc and selenium in children with JRA [7778].

The reduced serum concentrations of antioxidants found in patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases do not appear to be a consequence of reduced dietary intake in these patient groups compared with healthy controls [7880]. They may, therefore, indicate a high turnover of antioxidants and an increased antioxidant requirement in these patients which is necessary in order to balance the higher production of free radicals.

Although studies of supplementation with a single antioxidant have not shown disease reduction in RA patients, it is still possible that patients with an inflammatory rheumatic disease will benefit from supplementation with a combination of several antioxidants or from a dietary intake that exceeds the recommended dietary allowances.

Studies of immunomodulation have revealed that nutrients other than food proteins and fats also have an impact. The effects of fatty acids, antioxidants and food proteins on immunomodulation need to be investigated further, and so should the question of the involvement of the gut in the aetiology and pathology of rheumatic diseases. More knowledge on the effects of dietary components upon immunological function is necessary if the potential use of dietary therapy as a tool in the treatment of RA is to be adequately assessed.

  1. 1.     M. Haugen
  2. 2.     D. Fraser and 
  3. 3.     Ø. Førre