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HEALTHLINE NEWS

The Effects of Alcohol, Coffee, and Smoking on Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers are looking into the possible benefits, if any, of these substances on people with MS.

coffee and multiple sclerosis

Cigarettes, no way.

Coffee, not sure.

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Alcohol, perhaps.

Those are some of the latest findings from researchers studying which substances can help, and which substances can harm, someone with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Using the Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS), and Multiple Sclerosis Severity Score (MSSS), to measure disabilities, some studies are finding that higher alcohol intake is associated with lower EDSS scores and lower rates of disability.

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Alcohol, along with smoking, coffee, and vitamin D, can all have effects on people with MS.

While some of these behaviors harm the nerves, researchers are finding that others actually protect them.

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A drink might not hurt

There is nothing good about people with MS smoking cigarettes. In fact, cigarette smokers have five times greater odds of increased disability compared with people with MS who consume alcohol.

The benefits of drinking coffee are still being analyzed, while taking vitamin D has long been touted to help people with MS.

Now studies are finding that a drink or two might not be that bad, and that alcohol consumption may have a neuroprotective effect.

Many people with MS assert that a drink or two helps them get through the day.

People think I’m drunk when I’m sober and sober when I’ve had a glass of wine.
Erika Lopez, MS blogger

“People think I’m drunk when I’m sober and sober when I’ve had a glass of wine,” says MS blogger Erika Lopez, who has been living with a progressive form of the disease for the past decade.

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The effects of alcohol may depend upon the type of MS, relapsing or progressive.

One study found alcohol consumption was beneficial for some and not for others.

While consumption of alcoholic beverages, coffee, and fish were all associated with slowing down the progression of disability in people with relapsing onset MS, the people with progressive onset MS did not receive the same benefits.

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These findings may suggest that different underlying mechanisms might signal progression of disability in relapsing and progressive onset MS and could warrant further study.

Patients with relapsing MS who were regular consumers of alcohol, wine, coffee, and fish had lower disability scores compared with those who never consumed these substances.

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But in the progressive onset group no association was found except for the type of fish eaten. Those who preferred fatty fish showed an increased risk for higher disabilities versus those that consumed lean fish.

Read more: Get the facts on multiple sclerosis »

Neuroprotective properties

Some studies suggest that neuroprotective properties, like those found in caffeine, may actually help reduce the chance of developing MS.

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People who also reported a high consumption of coffee exceeding 900 mL per day showed significantly less risk of developing MS vs. those who never consumed it.

While one or two drinks might ease symptoms, the chronic use or abuse of alcohol can exacerbate symptoms. The risks and benefits of alcohol consumption for people with MS are still being studied.

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These symptoms could include numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, tremor, lack of coordination, and dementia. Excessive alcohol may also damage the liver, stomach, and other organs.

Alcohol can also be a bad mix with medications sometimes prescribed for people with MS such as baclofen, diazepam, clonazepam, and some antidepressants.

And consumption of alcohol can have a negative effect on important vitamins and minerals, such as lowering levels of zinc, a trace element required for normal cell growth and repair.

Further analysis is needed to better understand the potential cause and effect relationship between alcohol and its neuroprotective effects.

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