Research Highlight

Soybeans may help alleviate multiple sclerosis

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.107 Published online 6 August 2021

A diet rich in isoflavones (compounds found in soybeans) could reduce the severity of multiple sclerosis (MS), by boosting the abundance of specific isoflavone-metabolising gut microbes, a study reveals1.   

Such a diet and the abundance of the gut microbes reduced severity of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) that mimics MS in mice, an international research team has found.

These findings could potentially be useful for developing dietary and gut-microbes-based therapies for MS and other diseases, the researchers say. 

Patients with MS show a reduction in microbial diversity in their gut. Diet has been shown to alter and even restore gut microbial diversity. However, the effects of diet on gut microbes remain largely unexplored in MS.    

To find a link between diet, gut microbes and MS, the scientists, including a researcher from the Birla Institute of Science & Technology in Goa, India, fed female mice either an isoflavone-rich diet, an isoflavone-free diet, or a standard diet with moderate levels of isoflavones for six weeks. They then induced EAE in these mice.

Mice fed an isoflavone-free diet showed severe disease and mice on the standard diet showed intermediate disease, while mice on the isoflavone-rich diet exhibited greatly diminished disease severity.

The researchers found that consumption of isoflavones increased the diversity of specific species of gut bacteria. These bacteria broke down isoflavones into equol that checked the infiltration of specific immune cells into the CNS of EAE-afflicted mice. This, in turn, lowered inflammation and improved their health. 





1. Jensen, S. N. et al. Isoflavone diet ameliorates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis through modulation of gut bacteria depleted in patients with multiple sclerosis. Sci. Adv. 7: eabd4595 (2021)