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Research Insights: Milk May Worsen Symptoms of MS, A Chronic Disease of CNS

According to a recent study, people with multiple sclerosis have severe illness symptoms after consuming dairy products. Keep reading to learn more!

Binita Kumari
Dairy Products
Dairy Products

It's one thing for someone healthy yet lactose intolerant to experience ill effects from drinking milk, but what about people who have multiple sclerosis (MS)? According to a recent study, they, too, have more severe illness symptoms after consuming dairy products.

Researchers have also discovered a possible cause. 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the study.

The link between exacerbating MS symptoms & Milk Products

MS patients provided the impetus for the research. "We hear from patients all the time that milk, cottage cheese, or yogurt makes them feel worse," said Stefanie Kurten of the University Hospital Bonn's Institute of Anatomy. "We're trying to figure out what's causing this link."

Professor of neuro-anatomy and multiple sclerosis experts. Her studies at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg began in 2018. She came to Bonn a year and a half ago to pursue her studies with her research group. She explained, "We injected mice with different proteins from cow's milk." "We wanted to see if there was a component to which they were reacting with illness symptoms."

Milk Protein “Casein”: The Main Cause

Scientists discovered exactly what they were looking for: The mice developed neurological abnormalities after being given casein, a component of cow's milk, along with an efficient enhancer. Damage to the insulating layer around nerve fibers, known as myelin, was discovered using electron microscopy. The fat-like material acts as a barrier.

The immune system attacks the myelin sheath in multiple sclerosis. Paresthesia, visual difficulties, and mobility impairments are all possible outcomes. In some situations, patients require the use of a wheelchair. In the mice, the insulating coating was likewise substantially punctured, which was induced by the injection of casein. "We suspected a misdirected immune response, similar to that found in MS patients," Rittika Chunder, a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Kurten's research group, noted. "The body's defenses assault casein, but they also damage proteins involved in the synthesis of myelin in the process."

When two molecules are very similar, at least in part, cross-reactivity can occur. As a result, the immune system confuses them with one another.

This suggested that the body's natural defenses were focused against MAG in casein-treated mice, disrupting the myelin. But how well can the findings be applied to patients with MS? Casein antibodies from mice were introduced to human brain tissue to solve this question. These did certainly build up in the brain's myelin-producing cells.

Antibody synthesis is carried out by B cells, which are white blood cells. The B cells in the blood of persons with MS responded particularly well to casein, according to the study. The affected individuals most likely got a casein allergy as a result of eating milk at some point. The immune system now created a large number of casein antibodies as soon as they ate fresh dairy products. These also affected the myelin sheath around nerve fibers due to cross-reactivity with MAG.

This, however, only affects MS patients who are allergic to casein from cow's milk. Kurten, who is also a member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2, said, "We are currently creating a self-test with which affected patients can check whether they contain appropriate antibodies." "At the very least, this subgroup should avoid milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese."

Cow's milk likely raised the likelihood of developing MS in healthy people because casein can cause allergies in them, which isn't all that uncommon. Cross-reactivity with myelin can theoretically occur once such an immune response has developed. However, the professor stressed that hypersensitivity to casein does not always lead to the development of multiple sclerosis.

This would almost certainly necessitate the inclusion of additional risk factors. "Studies indicate that MS rates are greater in populations where a lot of cow's milk is consumed," Kurten said, adding that the link is still concerning.

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