A new study has found that a relatively simple diet tweak may help protect high-risk individuals from the harmful inflammatory response caused by an over-active immune system. Though it didn’t prevent the condition, the study found that eliminating certain foods could potentially slow the onset and progression of autoimmune disorders, which range from things like psoriasis all the way to deadly conditions like multiple sclerosis.
Autoimmune diseases are a series of health conditions that result from the body’s immune system attacking its own healthy tissues. The condition that results depends on what is being attacked — for example, multiple sclerosis is caused by the immune system attacking the myelin sheath on nerves, whereas psoriasis results in inflamed skin patches.
This immune response involves a type of cell called T cells that are fueled by the amino acid methionine. This amino acid is acquired by eating certain foods, meaning if you don’t eat those foods, your levels of methionine will decrease. Because the amino acid is found in basically all foods, it is not possible to completely eliminate it from your diet.
However, the study notes that eggs, meat, and other animal products have the highest amounts of methionine, meaning that a diet eliminating these foods will reduce the amount of methionine available to fuel the overactive immune cells.
The new study involved mice that suffered from multiple sclerosis; it found that restricting dietary methionine limited the ability of reprogrammed T cells to cause inflammation in the spinal cord and brain. This ultimately delayed the onset of the disease and slowed down its progression. However, it’s important to note that the study only involved mice; additional research is necessary to determine whether the same dietary change can help humans.