Fasting Diet Effective for Multiple Sclerosis?
Study results from both human and animal research indicate that a fasting diet could be effective for treating multiple sclerosis. The latest research, from the University of Southern California, showed that the fasting diet (aka, fasting-mimicking diet, FMD) reversed symptoms of multiple sclerosis in some animals and reduced them in others while improving symptoms in patients.
One critical component of the fasting type diet is the production of a substance called corticosterone. This steroid hormone is released by the adrenal glands and is involved in regulating metabolism.
The release of the hormone prompts the destruction of autoimmune cells. Subsequently, this process then results in the generation of new healthy cells.
Another critical component is the pattern of fasting and eating. Overall, the researchers found that it is the cycle of fasting and refeeding that causes the replacement of the autoimmune cells with new cells.
Read about diet and multiple sclerosis
Fasting diet study: part 1
In the first part of the study, the researchers used two groups of mice with autoimmune disease. One group was given a very-low-calorie, low-protein FMD: three cycles of fasting lasting 3 days out of every 7. The other group consumed a normal diet.
At the end of the cycles:
- All of the mice on the FMD showed a reduction in symptoms
- 20 percent of the mice had a complete recovery
- Mice on the fasting mimicking diet had elevated corticosterone levels
- FMD mice also had increased levels of immune T cells and reduced levels of proteins that cause inflammation
- FMD mice showed evidence of regenerated myelin that had been damaged
According to Professor Valter Longo, the study’s senior investigator and director of the Longevity Institute at USC’s Davis School of Gerontology, the fasting diet destroys bad immune cells and “then, after the mice return to the normal diet, the good immune cells but also the myelin-producing cells are generated.”
Fasting diet study: part 2
The second part of the study involved 60 individuals with relapsing-remitting MS who were randomly assigned to either a control diet, a high-fat, ketogenic diet (KD), or a modified human FMD for 7 days followed by a Mediterranean diet for six months (FMD group). The researchers noted the following results:
- Both the FMD and KD diets were well tolerated
- Individuals in both the FMD and KD groups demonstrated “clinically meaningful improvements” in factors such as quality of life, physical health, overall health changes, and mental health
The authors pointed out that their findings justify further research into the use of a fasting diet for multiple sclerosis. Factors not included in this human study, including the fact that FMD was not done more than one time and they did not test whether the Mediterranean diet alone would produce similar findings, need to be investigated in future controlled trials.
One author’s suggestion
Professor Longo noted that previous studies have evaluated fasting-mimicking diets and found them to be safe, so individuals with autoimmune disorders who are not responding to treatment might discuss a fasting diet program with their doctor or consider enrolling in a clinical trial. However, he warned that patients should not take it upon themselves to try a fasting diet approach without speaking with a specialist first.
Choi Y et al. A diet mimicking fasting promotes regeneration and reduces autoimmunity and multiple sclerosis symptoms. Cell Reports 2016 May 26 published online
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