Three Reasons Why There Aren’t More Large Trials of Diet in MS

…and One Way You Can Help

Reason #1

Ilana Katz Sand, MD, says one of the main reasons for the lack of large, prospective studies is that “it’s really, really hard to study human behavior.” Dr. Katz Sand, an Associate Professor of Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, explains, “Healthy habits tend to ‘hang together,’ so that people who eat well often are also physically active and non-smokers. As a result, studies have to be thoughtfully designed to ensure that you’re truly measuring the effects of diet, rather than the impact of another behavior or the cumulative effect of all those behaviors.”

Further, she notes, when studying a medication, it is easy to “blind” the trial so that participants don’t know whether they are receiving the medication or a placebo. “You obviously can’t do that with food,” she says, adding that dietary studies also are very dependent on participants being willing and able to accurately keep daily or weekly food diaries over several weeks or months.

Reason #2

Another challenge is securing adequate funding for large-scale research. Pharma-ceutical companies invest millions of dollars in trials of their investigational medications in hopes of securing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of those therapies and potentially recouping their investments. No single source has similar means or motives to fund dietary studies. Because of this, researchers often have to pursue funding from government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, and non-profit organizations.

Reason #3… and How You Can Help!

Finally, recruiting study participants can be difficult. The good news, however, is that this is one area where people with MS can make a real difference. The government-run website recently listed 17 studies on diet and MS that are recruiting participants. In addition, information on clinical trials and MS can be accessed through the easy-to-use Match clinical trials search tool offered by Antidote Technologies available on MSAA’s website at

In Conclusion

Dr. Katz Sand says, “Many observational studies have shown an association between diet and various aspects of MS, but observational studies cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship. That’s why we need to do interventional studies where we randomize people at the start of the trial to one arm or another and follow them over time. With adequate numbers of people in those types of trials, we will be able to make recommendations based on solid, reliable evidence.”