Blood lactate concentrations during rest and exercise in people with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Luke Cerexhe*, Chris Easton, Eilidh Macdonald, Linda Renfrew, Nicholas Sculthorpe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


Background Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disorder which irreversibly damages axons within brain matter. Blood lactate concentration could be a biomarker of MS onset and progression, but no systematic review has yet sought to confirm or dispute the elevation and biomarker potential of blood lactate in people with MS (PwMS) or to consolidate understanding of lactate production during exercise in PwMS.
Objective To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis on blood lactate in PwMS during rest and exertion compared to Healthy Controls (HC) and following chronic exercise intervention.
Methods A systematic search of six electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL, Science Direct, Cochrane Library, SPORTDiscus and PEDro) was performed on 10th April 2020. Mean, standard deviation and sample size for lactate measures at rest and during exercise were pooled to determine overall effect size using a random effects model. The 20-point Appraisal tool for Cross-Sectional Studies was utilised to assess study quality and inherent risk of bias. To qualify for inclusion, studies had to include human adults (>18 years) with a confirmed clinical diagnosis of MS, be published in English, have undergone peer review, report absolute blood lactate values for data extraction, and if involving testing during/after exercise, to do so during bilateral exercise methods.
Results 18 studies were qualitatively analysed and 15 studies quantitatively analysed. Outcome data was available for 1986 participants (nMS = 1129). A total of 7 papers tested blood lactate during rest (LactateREST), 7 papers tested during sub-maximal intensity exercise (LactateSUB-MAX), and 8 papers tested during maximal intensity exercise (LactateMAX). Meta analyses showed elevated LactateREST and reduced LactateMAX in PwMS compared to HC, higher LactateMAX in lower EDSS-scoring PwMS compared to higher EDSS-scoring PwMS, and that LactateSUB-MAX decreases and LactateMAX increases in PwMS following a chronic exercise intervention. Qualitative analysis reported LactateREST to be reduced in PwMS following a chronic exercise intervention.
Conclusions LactateREST is elevated in PwMS compared to HC. LactateMAX is lower in PwMS compared to HC and lower still in higher compared to lower EDSS-scoring groups of PwMS. Chronic exercise interventions have the potential to reduce LacatateSUB-MAX for a given power output and increase LactateMAX in PwMS compared to baseline values. LactateREST may be reduced in PwMS following a chronic exercise intervention but more research is required for confirmation. The results of this review were limited by small sample sizes and number of studies available for each testing condition, limited data available for potentially confounding/correlating factors (eg. VO2 and power output) as well as heterogeneity of methodology adopted across studies, often due to lactate testing being a secondary outcome measure.
PLS Lactate levels in the blood are different during rest and at intense exercise levels in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) compared to healthy counterparts, with people with MS showing a smaller jump in lactate during intense exercise from a higher resting level. After exercising for at least 3 months, blood lactate levels during exercise may become more similar to the levels seen in people without Multiple Sclerosis, but more research is required to give a clearer picture of this. We can hopefully use blood lactate in future to measure the progression of MS in an individual as well as the effectiveness of their exercise programme.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103454
Number of pages61
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
Early online date5 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022


  • multiple sclerosis
  • lactate
  • exercise
  • EDSS
  • biomarker


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