Developing tailored dietary advice for people with MS

Dr Vivienne Guan

University of Wollongong, NSW

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Fellowship | 2021 | Investigator Led Research |
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Summary

Although there currently are no conclusive dietary guidelines for people living with MS that delay or prevent disease progression, there is great demand from the MS community for easily accessible information to help with healthy food choices. Previous research has shown that people living with MS embrace support and advice to self-manage MS and improve their quality of life, and dietary advice is often sought as part of planning a wellness strategy. Additionally, potential symptoms of MS such as cognitive issues, depression, fatigue and pain can play havoc with day-to-day life, affecting food choices and effort preparing food and possibly leading to suboptimal nutrition.

The aim of Dr Guan’s research is to develop and evaluate a mobile phone app to support people living with MS to self-manage food choices in line with current Australian dietary guidelines. For people living with MS, this may relieve some of the cognitive stress associated with planning and co-ordinating food choices on a daily basis. Utilising the background of her extensive experience in information technology, Dr Guan plans to co-develop the app with practicing dieticians, people living with MS and Academics in Computer Science and Information Technology to reflect the current needs of the MS community, whilst being user-friendly and readily available. It is anticipated that this community engagement will lead to an app which promotes self-management, reduces stress and improves the quality of life for those living with MS.

Progress to Date

Dr Guan has conducted in-depth interviews with people living with MS to explore the needs, barriers and facilitators for using mobile applications to provide tailored dietary advice. Design preferences for a mobile application are being explored by in-depth interviews and a national online survey. A scoping review on using mobile applications in people living with MS and a systematic literature review on the effect of diet on fatigue of adults with multiple sclerosis are underway. A total of five final year students in Computer Science are currently developing a mobile application based on her research findings.

Dr Guan has initiated a multidisciplinary research team across Computer Science, Information Technology and Dietetics and built research capacity with diversity in terms of gender, skills, expertise and career stages including Early Career Researchers and Senior Researchers. She also secured an MS Australia Incubator Grant 2022 to advance the mobile application by incorporating artificial intelligence. Dr Guan was awarded the Young Investigator Award 2021-2022 from Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, which provides direct research costs for the delivery and dissemination of the project.

Publications

Probst Y, Guan V, Van Der Walt A, Rath LM, Bonney A, Kent J. Patient self-management and empowerment for multiple sclerosis: The implications of dietary lifestyle management for primary care, Australian Journal of General Practice, Vol. 51, No. 4, April 2022

Updated 31 March 2022

Updated: 19 January, 2021

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory
Research

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years
Translational
Research

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years

Investigator

Grant Awarded

  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Total Funding

  • $165,000

Duration

  • 3 years

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Developing tailored dietary advice for people with MS