Following a diet that mirrors the habits of fasting can reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Following a diet that mirrors the habits of fasting can reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to findings published in Cell Reports.
Researchers from the University of Southern California examined the effects of a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) in MS patients. Mice models fasted for three days every seven days for a total of three cycles and then compared to a control group to note the differences.
The researchers reported several significant findings: FMD reduced the pro-inflammatory cytokines and increased corticosterone levels, FMD suppressed autoimmunity by facilitating lymphocyte apoptosis, FMD promoted regeneration of oligodendrocyte in various MS models, and FMD was a safe, feasible and potentially effective treatment for MS patients.
One in five animals achieved complete recovery, the researchers reported.
“During the fasting-mimicking diet, cortisone is produced and that initiates a killing of autoimmune cells,” lead author Valter Longo explained in a press release. “This process also leads to the production of new healthy cells. On the one hand, this FMD kills bad immune cells. Then, after the mice return to the normal diet, the good immune cells but also the myelin producing cells are generated, allowing a percentage of mice to reach a disease free state.”
Then, the researchers enrolled 60 MS patients in a pilot trial for FMD, in which 18 participants were placed on an FMD cycle and then the Mediterranean diet for six months. During that period, 12 MS patients were on a controlled diet and the remaining patients were on a ketogenic diet.
The FMD patients who followed the Mediterranean diet after the fasting cycle showed improvements in their quality of life, overall health (including physical and mental health) alongside the ketogenic diet patients. However, the study authors added that they did not further test to see if it was the FMD or the Mediterranean diet that caused these improvements using fMRI or immune function analysis.
“We are optimistic,” Longo said, noting that further studies utilizing larger cohorts are required. “What we don’t want is patients trying to do this at home without involvement of their specialist or without understanding that larger trials are necessary to confirm that the diet, as a treatment, is effective against MS or other autoimmunities.”
FMDs have been linked to success in fighting cancer and reducing the signs of aging, the press release added, but again stressed that consulting with a doctor is vital for patients interested in this dietary possibility or enrolling in a similar clinical trial.