Research Summary: Dietary naringenin supplementation attenuates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by modulating autoimmune inflammatory responses in mice

Why?

Despite many treatments now being available, including some very powerful new medications, there is always a push to find new ways to help manage multiple sclerosis (MS).  In particular, lifestyle modifications that can be used in combination with other approaches are becoming very interesting for researchers and members of the MS community.  One such approach that has shown great promise through a variety of studies is using a dietary approach that incorporates many foods with anti-inflammatory properties.  Therefore, having a better understanding of specific compounds in food that may provide these benefits is a useful area of study.

What?

In the study being summarised here, the researchers looked at the effect of naringenin.  Naringenin is a type of flavonoid, which are compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.  Naringenin is found in a variety of citrus fruits, herbs, spices and tomatoes.  It is particularly abundant in grapefruit, where it makes up around 10% of the dry weight of the fruit.

Where?

The research was conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at
Tufts University in Boston, USA.

How?

The study was performed in mice, using a common model of multiple sclerosis known as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis or EAE.  In the experiments, some groups of mice had naringenin added to their diets to see whether that had any impact on the disease.

And? 

The results described in this study were quite interesting, the main findings were:

    • Mice that had naringenin in their diet had a delayed onset of disease
    • Naringenin had an impact on decreasing the immune response in the mice, both in terms of lowering the T cell response and inflammation
    • When given after the disease had already started, naringenin was able to reduce some of the clinical symptoms seen in the mice

So?

As always, we have to be careful about getting ahead of ourselves when looking at results from animal models of multiple sclerosis.  However, this does provide some nice initial evidence that naringenin could be a useful new therapeutic compound in multiple sclerosis.  The fact that both a benefit has been seen, and the method of action is understood, is a good beginning.

These findings will need to be replicated in larger studies and translated into human trials, which may take some time.  However, it is good to see that time and effort is being directed towards research in this area, as we know it is one that is of large interest to the MS community.

The full abstract for this study can be read here.

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