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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Alcohol, Fish and Coffee Slows MS Progression?

By March 27, 2012

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A recent European study had some interesting findings about alcohol, wine, coffee and fish consumption and how it impacts disability progression in people with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).

1372 people registered with the Flemish MS Society in Belgium answered a survey about dietary patterns. 893 of these people had RRMS. This is what the research showed:

  • Patients with RRMS who drank at least one alcoholic drink (not wine)  a week reached a score of 6.0 (the point at which assistance is needed to walk) on the Expanded Disability Status Scale, the EDSS, 7 years later than people who did not drink at all.
  • Those who drank wine reached EDSS of 6.0 four years later than those who did not drink wine.
  • People with RRMS who drank coffee daily delayed reaching EDSS 6.0 by five years.
  • People with RRMS who ate fish two or more times a week reached EDSS 6 seven years later than people who ate fish less than once a month. Interestingly, it did not seem important if the fish was lean or fatty.

These effects were not seen in people with progressive MS, only in people with RRMS.

The researchers hypothesize that these affects may be due to anti-inflammatory properties of alcohol, wine, coffee and fish. It should be said, however, that this is not a prescription to start drinking coffee or alcohol - certainly not excessive amounts. Much more research needs to be done in this area, but this is certainly pretty good news for people who enjoy a cocktail or a nice cup of coffee.

You can read the full article in the European Journal of Neurology here: Alcohol, coffee, fish, smoking and disease progression in multiple sclerosis

March 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm
(1) DonnaMac says:

Good news!!! I crave coffee….LOL…I’m a coffee lover from way back, and my coffee intake really went down for awhile, but now it’s right back, and I love my flavored coffees…esp the Hazelnut variety….Yippee!!! Good news!!

March 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm
(2) . Terry says:

I’m a 61 year old male diagnosed over 2 decades ago. Have been convinced coffee contributed to my flare ups. Usually 2 or 3 yearly. Now I believe it was the sugar involved in the coffee consumption. Been on a sugar free diet for the last year and haven’t had any flareups. Consume 3 or 4 cups of black coffee a week with no side effects. What a relief love that stuff. Not about to try booze drank my share already. Been nearly 6 years now.

March 29, 2012 at 12:17 am
(3) Debra says:

This is the most uplifting news I’ve heard in a while. Me being a huge coffee drinker (2 – 3 cups a day) and I also like to go out for a drink with my husband or the girls from time to time really makes me feel less guilty about doing it after reading this post. I’ve been diagnosed with MS a year and a half ago but have had it for over 10 years, according to my doctor b/c of a flare up that had me half bind. So I guess this means I need to stick with my usual lifestyle.

March 29, 2012 at 1:40 am
(4) monica says:

Wonderful news, now I can enjoy my cabernet even more.

March 29, 2012 at 6:50 am
(5) Serika says:

Ahhhh… so that’s it! It’s been worked out my MS started as early as 1986 but I’ve only been recented DX. I drink copious quantities of coffee with soy milk and eat tonnes of dark chocolate… ha ha! Works for me :)

March 29, 2012 at 7:44 am
(6) Jim says:

Finally, some medical research on MS which provides some pleasure. Since reading the article, my wife and I have been enjoying fish and wine for dinner twice a week. I already drink coffee. But the real question is – if this study is correct, will my medical insurance pay for these foods?

March 29, 2012 at 11:49 am
(7) Dawn says:

Good news……wonder if there’s any difference between regular and decaf. Also (maybe it’s the medication I’m on) I’ve noticed that alcohol doesn’t seem to have the same effect as it used to. It relaxes me, but I don’t have to worry about over-doing it. Has anyone else noticed this

March 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm
(8) KARIN says:

The one and only think I realy miss of my healthy life is having a glass or two of white wine. Having slowed down quite a bit with this pleasure in life I found out that a glass of wine effects me very quickly. I always joke to my family after having a drink when my brain sends signals to my muscles they respond “So sorry we don’t speak your language”. I have fallen a few times after having some wine so I just gave it up completely, may be I should have had more earlier on.

March 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm
(9) Josh says:

I have also read that coffee can help slow down MS symptoms, if taken in moderation.

October 24, 2012 at 11:36 am
(10) Colleen says:

Before I was dxd with MS I suffered from migraines (still do). My neuro suggested keeping a level of caffeine in my system. Said as far as drugs go caffeine was mild for migraine prevention (since some migraine drugs do contain caffeine as well). I’ve always thought caffeine was good for my brain. Glad to have it confirmed! LOL

I do drink some wine or a cocktail every now and then (love my margarita’s!). I do have to limit myself to one drink since I’m on 5 meds a day, and never know how that will react. (Dr. said it was fine if I have no reactions.)

So that should be a concern or something to think about: drinking combined with the drugs you are taking.

October 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm
(11) Cindy says:

Good news! Knowing you can indulge in a drink or coffee goes along way towards making us feel a little less deprived. We’ve all given up so much. I’ve also heard that there is a reduction in flares if you have shellfish once a day. Anyone ever heard if that? I love any kind of shellfish. Being able to afford to afford it would be another matter.

October 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm
(12) Lisa says:

Wow, I can feel good drinking! I love my coffee in the morning and always felt a twinge that maybe I shouldn’t be. And, I do like to have a drink with friends – it makes me feel ‘normal’! :-) Now, I don’t have to worry about it and actually feel good about it! I do like beer mostly though, wine and liquor make me feel too drunk after just one!

October 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm
(13) rick scalf says:

Interesting as i thought i had noticed a positive relation between wine and lessening of symptoms. I also have two cups of coffee per day, AM. I obviously have the RRMS variety as i was diagnosed in 1972 and experinced five major attacks over that time frame, each w/ hospitalization and each with a degree of damage, none of which has been debilitating, just annoying at best.
Currently in a chronic progressive state beggining a year ago, still ambulatory without numbness or significant disability but still rather irritating. Can’t run, walking is becoming more difficult by the day now, elimination still quite functional without indications of degradation, stamina shot however. Lived in high desert since 1950 but from indiana and fours years, USAF w/ 2 yrs in alaska and greenland. currently 68 yrs.

October 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm
(14) Teresa Endicott ny says:

Thank goodness some of my favorite things are good for me. I am 73 and dx 7 years ago. I love my coffee in the morning after a brisk walk with my Husband and so look forward to two glasses of red wine at dinner with my Hubby.

October 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm
(15) sylvie says:

question for you all.. ****
newly diagnosed on Copaxone for 8 months, young and I noticed that hard alcohol makes me drunk 10 times faster than before now.
I am so sick the next day…. it is a full on head in the toilet bowl kind of scene. So I quit. It is bummer this young and I wonder why this is happening> anybody with feedback please?

October 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm
(16) Peggy says:

Happy to hear this news! I love coffee and a good wine with dinner! It makes me feel better since I never gave up coffee and won’t feel guilty having an occasional glass of wine.

October 25, 2012 at 9:18 am
(17) Jan says:

Yay! Irish coffee is looking good.

October 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm
(18) Konrad says:

One shut of polish vodka once a week, it`s a great cure, I knew it

February 1, 2013 at 8:33 pm
(19) Attila says:

Old news however hard to believe alcohol is good !

April 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm
(20) RichardG says:

This is such garbage. Has anyone bothered to actually go and read the study? I would guess no. I did. This is exactly the type of poor reporting that causes us MS sufferers to get worse, not better. So now I see you all are going to go gung-ho on coffee, wine and fish, right? Never mind that coffee and wine (caffeine and alcohol) will do some great destroying of your healthy bacteria that we all need in our gut to strengthen our immune system and fight inflammation, a key to MS health. Never mind that you will go out and eat polluted GMO fish from farms and the ocean and be convinced it is going to help your MS. This was merely a SURVEY of 1372 people, hardly a blinded controlled study that is what is really needed here. A survey allows for deceit and often folks will say or do what the survey takers want. This is about as scientific as a McDonald kids meal survey on the side of the meal box. And the EDSS scale, we all know how subjective that is! Gessshh people, get a grip and take this article for what it is. Poor reporting of a clinical study that showed very little except to convince folks that caffeine, alcohol and polluted fish will help them. Really?

May 21, 2014 at 10:17 am
(21) Woman of God says:

You should not believe everything that you read unless it’s in the Holy Bible. I have been cured from MS and I can eat whatever I want, without it affecting me. My faith has been in Jesus, not man! We need to pray and help each other not harden our hearts towards one another. Jesus loves us all, that’s why He died on the cross, so that our sins would be forgiven and that we could have enteral life in Heaven with Him and The Father.

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