Healthy Living

Common Antioxidant May Slow Multiple Sclerosis Progression

Common Antioxidant May Slow Multiple Sclerosis Progression

To date, multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic neurological condition, affects more than 2.3 million individuals worldwide. The immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin, which is the protective layer that surrounds the nerve fibers. This, in turn, disrupts the regular nerve signaling between the brain and spinal cord, thus triggering inflammation and scar tissue. MS can develop at any age; however, most individuals are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.

Since it is 3x times more common among women than men, hormonal factors may affect susceptibility to MS. Moreover, while MS affects all ethnicities, it is more common among Caucasians.

Common treatment options for MS attacks may include corticosteroids and plasma exchange. On the other hand, common treatment options for MS signs and symptoms may include muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and other prescribed medications. No matter the form of MS that you have, current available treatment options focus on speeding recovery from attacks and slowing down the progression of the disease.

Antioxidants and MS

While researchers have not yet determined the exact cause and progression rate of MS, evidence has been uncovered that suggests specific antioxidants may slow MS progression. In MS, the nerve fibers become damaged and free radicals may cause tissue injury, thus triggering attacks. This is where antioxidants come in. They have the potential to block the action of free radicals. Recent research on a study was published on June 28th in the Journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation. Led by Rebecca Spain, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and colleagues, the study suggested that the antioxidant lipoic acid conveys promising results in improving patients’ lives.

The randomized study included 51 subjects who completed a full two-year trial. 27 subjects were given 1,200 milligrams of lipoic acid on a daily basis, while the remaining 24 subjects were given a placebo. The study uncovered a 68% improvement over the placebo in reducing the rate of whole brain atrophy among patients with secondary progressive MS. Whole brain atrophy refers to the decline in total brain volume due to the loss of neurons. It is considered an indicator of MS progression. Additionally, a clinical trial involving the FDA approved pharmaceutical Ocrevus, revealed an 18% improvement over the placebo in reducing the rate of whole brain atrophy among patients with primary progressive forms of MS. The brain volume of each subject was assessed using MRI scans to pinpoint any changes. What’s more, the new study revealed that subjects treated with lipoic acid experienced improved movements in terms of walking and less injuries from falling, in comparison to subjects who were given a placebo.

Dr. Rebecca Spain revealed that while the study seems safe and well-tolerated by participants, a larger clinical trial needs to be conducted before lipoic acid can be recommended as a safe and effective treatment option for MS. Fortunately, Dr. Spain and her team are currently planning a multisite clinical trial that is due to start later this year, for the purpose of testing and confirming outcome results.

While recent evidence has surfaced, portraying the importance of antioxidants in slowing down the progression of multiple sclerosis, research conducted a few years back also revealed the promising target of antioxidant therapy. In 2008, an article titled “Antioxidant therapy in multiple sclerosis” by authors Abbas Mirshafiey and Monireh Mohsenzadegan was published in the journal Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology . The article observed antioxidant approaches to treating several neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS). The authors noted that while the exact cause of MS has not fully been discovered, it appears that reactive oxygen species (ROS) play an important role in the development of MS. That is, ROS contributes to the formation and persistence of MS lesions by triggering pathological courses. Furthermore, they suggested that possible approaches to limiting oxidative stress associated with the development of such neurological diseases may be to reduce the production of nitric oxide and prevent mitochondrial dysfunction.

Finally, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an example of an antioxidant that is a vital part of proper cell function. Low levels of this coenzyme have been associated with several neurodegenerative diseases, of which one is MS. Quite a few clinical trials have tested this antioxidant to determine its potential in regenerating the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E in the body. Since vitamin E has been shown to have neuroprotective properties and MS is an autoimmune disease, it is only logical to imply that this vitamin can help to manage the disease. Based on clinical findings, coenzyme 10 appears to be safe, well-tolerated and of potential use to the management of MS.

If you have MS, it is important to consult with your doctor about undergoing the right medical treatment. You may be prescribed steroids to reduce the severity of attacks or other medications to reduce symptoms such as muscle spasms, fatigue, and urinary problems. In addition to medical treatment, your doctor may recommend that you undergo some of the following dietary and lifestyle approaches to help with your individual case:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition;
  • Changing your diet if you experience difficulties swallowing or chewing;
  • Increasing your intake of ginger and omega-3 fatty acids;
  • Eliminating polyunsaturated vegetable oils and deep-fried foods from your diet;
  • Eliminating milk and other dairy products and substituting them with other calcium sources;
  • Avoiding factors that aggravate your symptoms;
  • Following a regular exercise routine;
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, visualization, or hypnotherapy;
  • Getting plenty of rest;
  • Avoiding stress, high temperatures, and exposures that can lead to illness;
  • Taking safety measures at home for the purpose of avoiding trips and falls;
  • Using assistive devices if necessary – walkers, wheelchairs, or wall bars;
  • Experimenting with traditional medications and remedies with the help of qualified doctors;
  • Avoiding postponing MS treatment;
  • Undergoing necessary physical therapy and speech therapy;
  • Reaching out to support groups for individuals with MS

While a diagnosis of MS can be frightening and overwhelming, remember that you are not the only one dealing with this condition. In the United States alone, an estimated 400,000 individuals have MS. Furthermore, while there is no cure for MS, there are several treatment options available to help slow down the progression of the disease. Researchers have stated that MS today is very different from what it was in the past. Nowadays, there are numerous new and promising treatments that can help alleviate and control symptoms, of which a few include common antioxidants. While researchers continue to uncover new findings, you have a responsibility to do your best to maintain your own physical and mental health.


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