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Drinking Alcohol Is Associated With a Lower Risk of Developing MS, Study Finds

Posted on December 29, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Torrey Kim

  • Alcohol consumption was linked to a 20 percent reduction in the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) when compared to the outcomes of people who never drank, a Swedish study indicated.
  • Previous studies have shown mixed results about the correlation between drinking alcohol and developing MS.
  • Further research is needed to determine whether drinking is linked to MS risk.

People who don’t consume alcohol were found to be at a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, according to the results of a recently published Swedish study. That risk rose even more for those who said they smoke or previously smoked.

Researchers reviewed studies of 2,059 people with MS and 2,887 without the condition in Sweden, and then matched the participants based on such factors as sex, age, and geographic location. They then stratified the participants based on those who drank alcohol — and if so, whether they drank a light, moderate, or high amount. They then reviewed the incidence of MS based on whether people drank alcohol or not.

“Overall, alcohol consumption was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of MS compared with never-drinkers,” the study authors wrote. “Overall, non-drinking interacted with smoking to increase MS risk,” the authors noted.

The study authors included several potential hypotheses for the findings. Among them, they suggested some participants may have stopped drinking prior to being diagnosed with MS because the onset of the condition had decreased their alcohol tolerance. In addition, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers, which could be another cause for the results.

Although the study found an inverse association between drinking alcohol and the risk of developing MS, the study authors emphasized the fact that drinking can have negative effects on other disease conditions.

In addition, prior studies have shown contradictory results when weighing MS risks against alcohol consumption. A 2006 study indicated that heavy drinking may increase the risk of MS, while a 2015 study found no significant association between MS risk and drinking alcohol. Thus, adequate evidence has not yet emerged to indicate whether consuming alcohol actually increases the risk of developing MS or not.

Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Torrey Kim is the managing editor at MyHealthTeams and has over a decade of experience writing about medical conditions. Learn more about her here.

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