Alcohol Consumption Linked to Lower MS Disability

Those who drank larger amounts of hard alcohol had the strongest association with lower EDSS.

WASHINGTON — Multiple sclerosis patients who consumed larger amounts of alcohol had lower rates of disability per the Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) and Multiple Sclerosis Severity Score (MSSS), study findings indicate.

Consumption of beer also affected EDSS scores positively; however consumption of wine had no association with EDSS score, according to Camilio Diaz-Cruz, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who reported the findings at the American Academy of Neurology 2015 Annual Meeting.

Camilio and colleagues measured alcohol/wine consumption in servings per week for 908 patients (73% females, mean age 47±11 years, mean disease duration 13±9 years) enrolled in the Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis (CLIMB) study. Drinking habits were also assessed, and influence of alcohol or wine consumption on clinical outcomes was assessed using regression models for relapse rate in the past year, and concurrent EDSS and MSSS outcomes. Associations with and changes in Symbol Digit Modality Tests (SDMT) were also assessed in a subset of patients.

There were 56 nondrinkers in the cohort; 98 of who preferred drinks with 80-proof liquor, 249 preferred beer, 283 preferred red wine, and 222 favored white wine. Median alcohol intake was 1.1 servings per week.

Those who had higher alcohol intake were significantly associated with lower EDSS (P=0.015) and MSSS (P=0.003.) Both red and white wine had a non-significant negative association with both EDSS and MSSS, and there was no significant association between alcohol or wine consumption and relapse rate in the past year, change in EDSS (P=0.57) or MSSS (P=0.64) over one year, current SDMT score, and change in SDMT score in the last year. Notably, beer drinkers tended to have lower EDSS, however the relationship was weaker compared to that of hard liquor (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.88-0.99, for each serving/week versus each 1-point EDSS increment).

Although further data analyses are required to better understand the potential cause-effect relationship and underlying mechanism, the findings are complimentary to several previous but unconfirmed studies that suggest alcohol may be neuroprotective in the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.


  1. Diaz-Cruz C et al. Abstract P2.213. Does Alcohol and Red Wine Consumption Play a Role in Multiple Sclerosis Disease Course? Presented at: American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting 2015; April 18-25, 2015. Washington, D.C.