Diet and MS – One of the largest studies thanks to many of you!

News, Research

picture of Dr Steve Simpson Yapp

Participants on the Register may remember seeing a food questionnaire on the hub page last year, its official name is the ‘EPIC Norfolk food frequency questionnaire’ (FFQ), which took around 40-45 minutes to complete. The survey assessed how often participants consumed certain food groups, such as fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products, grains etc. ranging from ‘never or less than once a month’ to ‘6+ times a day’.

Some of you may have recognised the questionnaire from 2016 when we had 2,494 responses. This time round 3,741 people responded (Sept 2022), and 1,6000 completed the questionnaire at both timepoints. This means this is among one of the largest diet studies in people with MS especially as it spans over six years, meaning researchers are able to look at how diets change over time.

This would not be possible without the assistance of our dedicated participants who patiently sat through this questionnaire.

The fact this study was answered patiently by so many of people means we can get a better picture of what people eat, whether people’s food habits follow a particular diet (the Mediterranean diet for example), and characteristics of groups of people with specific eating habits. This is so much more beneficial than just looking at individual foods and beverages for their outcomes, which is vulnerable to errors and is statistically inefficient.

The effort put in by our participants will enable us to explore the extensive types of food intake behaviour, which is more likely to predict outcomes than any individual food or beverage, which people may follow to affect their disease. Also this achievement will hopefully aid to predict clinical outcomes within the Register, which in turn could help clinicians give better diet advice in order to improve their patients outcomes.

Dr Steve Simpson-Yap, a senior research fellow in Neuroepidemiology at Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said

“This research is all very exciting for us and will create a greater insight into how and what kinds of diet affect clinical progression in people with MS. We are pleased to announce that in terms of grant success funding this project, we have been fortunate to receive almost $250,000 Australian dollars from MS Australia and almost £50,000 GBP from the UK MS Society. These funds will support our scientists to undertake the work in this project over the next three years as well as other costs”.


Once again, none of this would be achievable without the constant contribution from our devoted participants, and their continued support throughout this study.

We will keep you informed of any findings from the research as time goes on.

Once again, to all who contributed – Thank you

Some useful links below with advice on diets and MS:

by Hollie Mitchell, UKMSR Internship Student 23