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Curtin University is investigating 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,” 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.”

The study will draw on dietary intake data collected from children with MS and healthy children as part of a study conducted in Canada.

“Using this information, we will investigate whether diets, foods or nutrients may help to reduce the risk of children developing MS,” she said. The influence of several dietary factors, including consuming ultra-processed foods, dairy products, fish and other nutrients, will also 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.”

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