Key Benefits for MS Patients Following a Ketogenic Diet

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A new study has shed light on the link between significant improvements in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a ketogenic diet.

A team of researchers from University of Virginia Health System wondered if a ketogenic diet could be beneficial for MS patients and, surprisingly, they found significant improvements in symptoms, including a reduction in neurological disorders, fatigue and depression.

Multiple sclerosis 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 severe disability or occasionally affect patients mildly. It is one of the most common causes of disability in young 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 of MS patients and the ketogenic diet could be an option to supplement prescribed medications.

What is the ketogenic diet?

The ketogenic diet is an important weight loss plan that is celebrated in the fitness community. It mimics the body’s fasting state by drastically reducing carbohydrates and replacing them with healthy fats and proteins. As a result, the body relies on fat as its main source of energy, as opposed to carbohydrates and sugars.

Dietary changes are known to have effects on the body’s immune system. Specifically, the ketogenic diet may have several benefits for immune-mediated disorders, which is why researcher J. Nicholas Brenton, MD, MS expert at UVA Health, sought to confirm this.

Investigate the link between diet and MS symptoms

To compile relevant data, researchers recruited 65 volunteers with relapsing-remitting MS to understand the effect of the ketogenic diet on MS symptoms.

More than 80% of participants on the ketogenic diet adhered to it for the entire six-month study period, and researchers noted surprising improvements in their health. Along with a reduction in body fat, participants reported significant improvements in fatigue, depression, and quality of life. In addition, improvements in their physical endurance were observed.

“The study results are exciting and a testament to the dedication of our study participants and the resilience of people with MS,” said researcher J. Nicholas Brenton. “People with MS are very motivated for research that investigates the link between dietary intake and MS. Our study demonstrates not only the feasibility of dietary changes in MS patients, but also the potential benefits that could derive from such interventions. Given the intriguing results of this study, our team is currently investigating the impact of the ketogenic diet on the immune profile of MS patients.

Brenton and colleagues found that the ketogenic diet 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 walked further and faster in six minutes than before the diet.

Based on the results, the researchers concluded that the ketogenic diet 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 in people with MS when used over a six-month period,” Brenton said. “Nevertheless, more research is needed as there are risks associated with these diets. It is important that people with MS consult with their health care provider before making any major changes to their diet, and that they are regularly monitored by a doctor and a registered dietitian if they are on a true ketogenic diet.




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Richard V. Johnson