A new study illuminated the link between significant improvements in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a ketogenic diet plan.
A team of researchers from the University of Virginia Health System questioned whether a ketogenic diet plan could benefit MS patients and surprisingly, they saw significant improvements in symptoms, including reductions in neurologic disability, fatigue and depression.
MS affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a variety of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation, or balance. It is a lifelong condition that can lead to serious disability or can occasionally affect patients mildly. It is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults.
Treatment can control the condition, however, there is currently no cure. It is essential that new therapies are developed to improve the quality of life for MS patients and the ketogenic diet plan could be an option to complement prescribed medication.
What is the ketogenic diet plan?
The ketogenic diet plan is a prominent weight loss plan which is celebrated in the fitness community. It mimics the body’s fasting state by cutting carbohydrates dramatically and replacing them with healthy fats and protein. As a result of this, the body relies on fat as a primary energy source as opposed to carbohydrates and sugars.
Dietary changes are known to have effects on the body’s immune system. More specifically, the ketogenic diet plan may have several benefits for immune-mediated disorders, so researcher J. Nicholas Brenton, MD, an expert on MS at UVA Health, aimed to confirm this.
Investigating the link between diet and MS symptoms
To compile the relevant data, the researchers sourced 65 volunteers with relapsing-remitting MS to understand the effect of the ketogenic diet plan on MS symptoms.
More than 80% of participants on the ketogenic diet plan adhered to it for the full six-month study period and the researchers noted surprising improvements in their health. Along with a reduction in body fat, the participants reported significant improvements in fatigue, depression, and quality of life. Additionally, improvements to their physical endurance were observed.
“The findings from the study are exciting and serve as a testament to the dedication of our study participants and the resilience of those living with MS,” said researcher J. Nicholas Brenton. “People living with MS are highly motivated toward research that studies the link between dietary intake and MS. Our study not only demonstrates the feasibility of dietary changes in MS patients but also the potential benefits that could arise from such interventions. Given the intriguing results of this study, our team is currently looking at how the ketogenic diet impacts the immune profile of MS patients.”
Brenton and his collaborators discovered that the ketogenic diet plan had a wide range of benefits, as determined both by patient reports and by laboratory and clinical tests. During the physical endurance test, they found that patients on the ketogenic diet plan walked further and faster in six minutes than they did before the diet.
Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that the ketogenic diet plan is safe in the short term and potentially effective in improving MS-related symptoms and overall quality of life.
“Our study provides evidence that a ketogenic diet is safe and beneficial, reducing some symptoms for people with MS when used over a six-month period,” Brenton said. “Still, more research is needed as there are risks associated with these diets. It is important that people with MS consult with their healthcare provider before making any big changes to their diet, and that they be regularly monitored by a physician and registered dietitian if pursuing a true ketogenic diet.”