Meet The Researcher

Professor Lucinda Black

Deakin University

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?
I began working with MS researchers in relation to vitamin D. When I started engaging with the MS community, many people asked me about diet in general. I assumed that the research had already been done, but instead found a significant knowledge gap in the scientific literature and a lot of confusing information online. Since I couldn’t answer the questions I was being asked by people with MS, I was inspired to help fill the knowledge gap in the field of diet and MS.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
There are many exciting developments happening all over the world in MS research. I have seen the benefits that a healthy diet can bring to people’s lives, so naturally I’m excited that people with MS are keen to learn more about diet. Since diet is a high priority for people with MS, the research field of diet and MS is growing, both nationally and internationally, and we are starting to see more high-quality evidence emerging about diet and MS.
Tell us about your current research project...
While diet appears to be linked to MS onset, the role of diet in the disease progression of MS remains unclear. My vision is to remove the confusion surrounding diet for people with MS. I will use a combination of research methods, including: interviewing people with MS, carers and health professionals about diet; using blood samples and dietary intake data from large, multicentre studies of people with MS to test whether diet might influence disease progression; and developing an online dietary education program for people with MS, codesigned by people with MS.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
The impact of this research is substantial because dietary changes, including food choices and supplementation, are lifestyle practices that people can change. By developing evidence about diet and MS disease progression, and providing information on diet to the MS community through an online education program tailored for people with MS, this research will help all people with MS make informed dietary decisions.
What do you enjoy most about working in the lab and what are some of the challenges you face?
I enjoy supervising and mentoring nutrition students in the field of diet and MS. The students I support are passionate and motivated and are keen to make a difference to the lives of people with MS. Some of these students may go on to have successful research careers, and it is a privilege to be part of their journey. My current challenge is common to many people – a lack of time. I can only do so much, which is why I am focusing on building a team so that together we can help fill the knowledge gaps in diet and MS and bring the evidence to the MS community more quickly.
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Professor Lucinda Black