Eating less meat and eggs may slow onset and progression of MS

Reducing dietary intake of the amino acid methionine might delay the onset and progression of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.

In MS, the immune system’s T-cells attack myelin, the protective sheath surrounding the brain and spinal cord’s cells. Methionine serves as a building block of protein but also gets processed within cells to make a molecule called S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM).

T-cells don’t produce their own methionine and must instead absorb it from the person’s dietary intake. Methionine is particularly abundant in meat and eggs. Researchers found that during an immune response, T-cells absorbed methionine and converted it to SAM. A steady level of SAM increased the proliferation of a T-cell subtype, Th17 cells, linked to inflammation.

The scientists then fed mice a diet greatly reduced in methionine. They were found to have decreased proliferation of Th17 cells, which lead to a delay in disease onset and progression.

“Methionine is critical for a healthy immune system,” says Russell Jones PhD, the study’s author. “Our results suggest, for people predisposed to inflammatory and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, reducing methionine intake can actually dampen the immune cells that cause disease, leading to better outcomes.”

The researchers did state that this study took place in a mouse model, so more research with human subjects was needed.