Meet The Researcher

dr-lucinda-black

Associate Professor Lucinda Black

Curtin University

About
Let’s get started! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...
I am originally from a small fishing village (population 200) in the South West of Ireland. From there I moved to the UK, Brisbane and finally, Perth.
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
Having spent many years developing our understanding of dietary vitamin D in the general population, I began working with MS researchers in vitamin D and MS. Through this work, I saw that people with MS were very interested in diet, were willing to make changes to their diet, but that the available dietary information for people with MS was not always supported by scientific evidence. I was inspired to get involved in MS research in order to help develop dietary advice for reducing the risk and early disease progression of MS.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
Naturally, I am very excited about the growing interest in modifiable lifestyle factors and MS. People with MS are motivated to make changes to their diet and lifestyle, and we need to provide the best possible information on how they can do that. The emerging research in diet, exercise and stress management will be essential for developing simple and beneficial lifestyle recommendations for people with MS.
Tell us about your current research project...
The contribution of diet to the risk and early disease progression of MS is unknown. The aim of this project is to investigate the impact of food and nutrition on the risk and early disease progression of MS. Dietary intake data from people who had recently developed MS are available from two studies, one based in Australia and the other based in the United States. Using these two studies, I will investigate whether certain patterns of food intake, and intakes of specific foods and nutrients, may be linked with reduced risk and early disease progression of MS.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Many people with MS change their diet after diagnosis, although there is no consistency in the types of changes people make. Furthermore, many special diets are promoted for people with MS, but these diets may not be backed up by scientific evidence. This study will help us understand what foods, nutrients and dietary patterns might benefit people at high risk of MS and at early stages of the disease. This is important information, since diet is something that people can take control of themselves.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is giving talks on diet to people with MS. It allows me to share my knowledge with people who are interested in learning about nutrition and are highly motivated to improve their diet. The main challenge in my research field is that diet is very hard to measure accurately. This makes it difficult to investigate relationships between diet and disease. Luckily, I work with many top nutrition and MS researchers, which ensures we produce the best quality research.
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Associate Professor Lucinda Black