Soda May Lead to Higher Level of Disability for MS Patients


Study focuses on the importance of distinguishing whether sugar-sweetened beverages heightened disability in patients with multiple sclerosis.

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may experience more severe symptoms and a higher level of disability if they drink approximately 290 calories of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages compared with people with MS who do not consume sugary beverages, according to a preliminary study to be presented at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

The study involved 135 people with MS, who completed a diet-related questionnaire. Investigators then compared each participant’s diet to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which recommends foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats, while limiting foods with a high saturation of fat and sugar.

The participants’ level of disability was also measured using the Expanded Disability Status Scale, which quantifies disability ranging from 0 (no symptoms) to 10 (death due to MS). A total of 30 participants had severe disability.

For soda and sugar-sweetened drinks, the participants were divided into 5 groups based on how much they drank. The people in the top group consumed an average of 290 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages per day, while the lowest group rarely drank sugar-sweetened beverages. The researchers did not find a link between food and the level of disability.

The study found that participants in the top group were 5 times more likely to have severe disability than those who seldom drank sugar-sweetened beverages. Of the 34 people in the top group, 12 had severe disability, compared with 4 of the 34 people in the bottom group. The top group had on average a disability score of 4.1 points, while the bottom group had an average of 3.4 points.

"While these results need to be confirmed by larger studies that follow people over a long period of time, and the results do not show that soda and sugar-sweetened beverages cause more severe disability, we do know that sodas have no nutritional value and people with MS may want to consider reducing or eliminating them from their diet," said study author Elisa Meier-Gerdingh, MD.

Limitations of the study included the relatively small number of participants and the fact that the participants’ diets and amount of sugar-sweetened beverages were assessed at the same time as disability. Additional studies are needed to evaluate whether sugar-sweetened beverages affect the course of the disease, according to the press release.

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