This supplement may ease MS severity

Published: 07 October 2022

A recent study found that guar gum, which is a dietary fibre people take as a supplement, reduced inflammation and disease severity in mice with multiple sclerosis.

Fibre in general is recommended for people with MS, as it’s known to help with inflammation, but there are a lot of different types, and they aren’t often looked at individually.

Researchers induced autoimmune encephalitis, which is a common mouse model of MS. Two weeks before this, the mice began special diets, either with no fibre at all, 5% cellulose fibre, or diets with 30% of either of the following fibres – inulin, resistant starch, pectin or guar gum.

The autoimmune encephalitis progressed at a similar rate in all of the study’s mice, except for those being fed guar gum. These mice’s symptom onset was delayed, and they had less disease severity during the 15-day study period.

More analysis showed the guar gum-eating mice had fewer inflammatory immune cells in their central nervous systems.

The guar gum supplementation also increased production of anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids by microbes in the gut, but the other fibres involved in the trial also did, so this couldn’t account for the benefits seen.

The researchers said the delayed disease onset was due to the fibre impairing the recruitment of immune cells to the central nervous system. Guar gum caused CD4 T-cells, a type of immune cell, to grow slower in the mice, and they showed less signs of the pro-inflammatory process called Th1 polarisation

The guar gum mice also had reduced expression of gene coding for chemokine receptors and integrins, which are needed by immune cells to travel through the body to the central nervous system.

The researchers also showed that T-cells from mice given guar gum were diminished in their ability to induce autoimmune encephalitis in mice on a control diet, showing that the protective effects of the diet are at least partly due to their effect on T-cells.

Guar gum is extracted from guar beans, mainly grown in Pakistan. It isn’t used very commonly in the west but can be bought as a dietary supplement.

A noted study limitation is that the doses of guar gum used were higher than would realistically be given to people.