Ketogenic Diet Shows Major Benefits for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis patients who adopt a “keto” diet may see health improvements on multiple fronts, new research co-authored by UVA Health shows.

Patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis who adopted a high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet saw significant improvements in their MS – including reductions in neurologic disability, fatigue and depression and heightened overall quality of life, the study finds.

The ketogenic diet – popular for weight loss and among the fitness community – was put to the test among 65 volunteers with relapsing-remitting MS, an inflammatory disorder in which the immune system attacks the natural insulation that protects the body’s nerves in the brain and spinal cord. MS symptoms vary widely, but patients often struggle with cognition, dexterity and mobility.

In the new study, more than 80% of participants on the keto diet adhered to it for the full six-month study period. Participants lost body fat and reported significant improvements in fatigue, depression and quality of life. In addition, their performance improved on physical endurance testing, such as the six-minute walk.

“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 lead researcher Dr. J. Nicholas Brenton, an expert on MS at UVA Health. “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.”

About the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet mimics the body’s fasting state. To do this, it cuts carbohydrates dramatically and replaces them with healthy fats and protein. As a result, the body relies on fat as a primary energy source (as opposed to carbs/sugars). A person on a ketogenic diet, for example, might eat a hamburger with no bun and a side…

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