Ketogenic diet plan potentially improves quality of life for MS patients

ketogenic diet plan

A new US study suggests that following a ketogenic diet plan may be safe for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and even improve their quality of life.

The novel investigation performed by researchers from the American Academy of Neurology may have uncovered an effective new strategy for reducing disability from multiple sclerosis, finding that the keto diet may mitigate fatigue and depression for individuals with the condition and improve other aspects of their health. A ketogenic diet plan mainly consists of meat, fish, eggs, heavy cream, butter, oils, and non-starchy vegetables, including pea pods, broccoli, carrots, and peppers.

Nicholas Brenton, MD, of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and a member of the American Academy of Neurology and author of the study, commented: “A ketogenic diet, which is high in fats, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates, allows the body to utilise fat as its primary source of energy instead of sugars, thus mimicking a fasting state.

“A ketogenic diet helps lower blood sugar levels in people with type II diabetes and improve seizure control in people with epilepsy. However, it has not been well-studied in people with MS. Diet changes can be an inexpensive way to improve overall health, so our study explored whether eating a ketogenic diet is safe, tolerable and beneficial for people living with MS.”

Implementing a ketogenic diet

The team enrolled 65 individuals with relapsing-remitting MS – the most common form of the disease – characterised by symptom flare-ups followed by periods of remission. The participants in the study followed a ketogenic diet for six months and were instructed to eat two to three ketogenic meals daily. The meals consisted of one to two servings of low-carb proteins such as eggs, fish, or meat alongside two to four tablespoons of fat, such as butter, oil, ghee, avocado, or heavy cream, and one to two cups of non-starchy vegetables, including cucumbers, leafy greens, or cauliflower.

Participants were also allowed to consume snacks as long as they did not exceed the maximum daily carbohydrate allowance of 20 grammes. Diet adherence was tracked by employing daily urine tests to measure ketones – a metabolite that is produced by the body when it is burning fats. 83% of participants adhered to the diet for the entire study.

Effects on MS

Before the start of the study and at three and six months when on the ketogenic diet plan, participants completed tests and surveys to measure their level of disability and quality of life. The results suggested that participants had a decline in fatigue and depression scores after six months, in addition to losing body fat.

The quality of life survey comprised questions that included:

  • Did you feel worn out?
  • Did you have a lot of energy over recent weeks?
  • Have you been a happy person?
  • Have you felt downhearted and blue?

The survey identified a physical and mental health score that ranges from zero to 100, with higher scores suggesting better physical and psychological health. The average physical health score of the participants at the start of the study was 67, increasing to 79 at the study’s conclusion. Mental health scores also increased from an average of 71 to 82 at the end of the study.

Additionally, the researchers identified that a ketogenic diet plan also improved scores on a common MS disease progression test that has a scale of zero to 10. A score of one represents no disability, two represents minimal disability and three moderate disability but still able to walk. During the study, the average score of the participants decreased from 2.3 to 1.9. Moreover, the team found that on a six-minute walking test, participants walked an overage of 1,631 feet at the start compared to 1,733 feet at the end of the study. Blood samples also showed that inflammatory marker levels in the blood improved.

Brenton said: “Our study provides evidence that a ketogenic diet may indeed be safe and beneficial, reducing some symptoms for people with MS, when used over a six-month period. However, more research is needed because there are potential risks associated with ketogenic diets, such as kidney stones, digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies. It is important that people with MS consult with their doctor before making any big changes to their diet, and that they be regularly monitored by a physician and registered dietitian while on a ketogenic diet.”

The team explained that a limitation of the study was the lack of a control group of people with MS who consumed their regular, non-ketogenic diet.


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