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Study to explore link between diet and multiple sclerosis in children

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New Curtin University research will investigate the largely unknown role of diet – including ultra-processed foods, fish and dairy products – in the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) in children.

Lead researcher Dr Eleanor Dunlop, from the Curtin School of Population Health, said new insights gained by the MS Australia-funded study could lead to the creation of evidence-based dietary advice for children at high risk of developing MS.

“There has been a considerable increase in the number of children being diagnosed with  MS in recent years and while it remains rare in children, those with a family history of MS are known to be at greater risk of developing the disease,” Dr Dunlop said.

“Although nutritional factors have long been of interest in multiple sclerosis research, little is known about the influence of diet on the likelihood of a child developing MS.”

Dr Dunlop said the new research would draw on dietary intake information collected from children with MS and healthy children as part of a study conducted in Canada, led by Professor Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia.
“Using this information, we will investigate whether diets, foods or nutrients may help to reduce the risk of children developing MS,” Dr Dunlop said.

“The influence of several dietary factors, including consuming ultra-processed foods, dairy products, fish and other nutrients, will be explored in relation to their link with the onset of MS in childhood.

“The findings of our study will provide evidence to support dietary guidance for children at high risk of developing MS.”

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated Dr Dunlop and the MS Nutrition Research Team, led by Curtin’s Associate Professor Lucinda Black, on being awarded MS Australia funding support.

“This project has been made possible by MS Australia as a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship and I look forward to seeing how it will advance our knowledge of the role that diet plays in the onset of MS in children,” Professor Moran said.

Associate Professor Black’s MS Nutrition Research Program has been supported by MSWA since 2016.

For more information about Dr Dunlop and her research, visit here.

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