Exploring the role of diet on mental health in people with MS

Dr Wolfgang Marx

Dr Wolfgang Marx

Deakin University, VIC

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Fellowship | 2020 | Investigator Led Research |


People with MS are more likely to experience depression, causing significant burden to the individual and the healthcare system. New therapies for depression that are effective, inexpensive and tolerable are urgently needed. Healthy diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown in several recent studies to improve depressive symptoms. One suggested reason for this effect is due to the high concentration of polyphenols (micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables), which have a wide range of beneficial properties believed to be relevant to improving depression. While the evidence is promising, the role of polyphenols in improving depression in people with MS has not yet been studied.

This will be the first research program internationally, using gold standard study designs, to thoroughly investigate the role of polyphenols in managing depression in MS. If shown to be effective, this research could provide strong evidence for the role of a tolerable, low-cost, and widely available strategy to help improve depression in people with MS.

Progress to Date

Approval has been granted to use the AusImmune dataset to contribute to this study which will significantly boost the study findings. Dr Marx has first analysed the relationship between polyphenol intake and MS in this dataset and hopes to publish these results in the near future.  The next step is to analyse the polyphenol intake data and depressive symptoms within the AusImmune and AusLong (Ausimmune Longitudinal study) datasets. These datasets have been running for many years, providing valuable information.

A new part of the study, called the RELIEF trial, will provide the microbiome data for the second aim of the study, which will examine the relationship between dietary polyphenol intake, depressive symptoms and the composition of the gut microbiome. Recruitment for the RELIEF trial has been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions during both 2020 and 2021. To date, 58 of the anticipated 150 participants have been enrolled, and with the recent addition of an extra recruitment site, it is hoped to complete recruitment by the end of 2022.


  • Purton T, Staskova L, Lane MM, Dawson SL, West M, Firth J, Clarke G, Cryan JF, Berk M, O’Neil A, Dean O. Prebiotic and probiotic supplementation and the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway: A systematic review, and meta analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2021 Apr 1;123:1-3.
  • Veronese N, Yang L, Piccio L, Smith L, Firth J, Marx W, Giannelli G, Caruso MG, Cisternino AM, Notarnicola M, Donghia R. Adherence to a healthy lifestyle and multiple sclerosis: a case–control study from the UK Biobank. Nutritional neuroscience. 2020 Dec 8:1-9.

Updated: 31 March 2022

Updated: 21 January, 2020

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

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

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



Grant Awarded

  • Postdoctoral Fellowship

Total Funding

  • $120,000


  • 3 years

Funding Partner

  • Deakin University
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Exploring the role of diet on mental health in people with MS