Ketogenic (KD) and fasting mimicking (FMD) diets have been shown to be feasible and safe in MS patients. There is clinical evidence that they might improve health-related quality of life.
In 2016 a randomized, parallel-group, three-arm pilot trial was conducted to assess the safety and feasibility of FMD or KD treatment on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in relapsing MS patients. 60 patients were randomly assigned to a control diet, KD for 6 months (n = 20), or a single cycle of a modified human FMD for 7 days followed by a Mediterranean diet for 6 months. The FMD and KD cohorts displayed clinically meaningful improvements in the HRQOL (quality of life) summary scales at 3 months, which included the overall quality of life, change in health, a physical health composite and a mental health composite.
Choi IY, Piccio L, Childress P, Bollman B, Ghosh A, Brandhorst S, et al. A diet mimicking fasting promotes regeneration and reduces autoimmunity and multiple sclerosis symptoms. Cell Rep. 2016;15(10):2136–46.
Another pilot study which tested the safety and tolerability of a modified Atkins diet found decreased body mass index, body fat mass, fatigue and depression scores in 20 Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) patients.
Brenton JN, Banwell B, Bergqvist AGC, Lehner-Gulotta D, Gampper L, Leytham E, et al. Pilot study of a ketogenic diet in relapsing–remitting MS. Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2019;6(4):e565.
Terry Wahls is a physician from Iowa, USA who put her own MS into remission by making changes to her diet. Her story is documented in the excellent book The Wahls Protocol and an outstanding Ted Talk. Her diet protocol is a modified Paleo diet with emphasis on meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.
Dr Wahls has also done extensive research assessing the efficacy of her diet protocol in patients with MS. In a single-arm study using this dietary approach as part of a multimodal intervention, improvements in fatigue, QoL, and gait, were observed in half of a cohort with progressive MS.
Bisht B, Darling WG, Shivapour ET, et al. Multimodal intervention improves fatigue and quality of life in subjects with progressive multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Degener Neurol Neuromuscul Dis 2015; 5: 19–35.
Two small follow up randomized, controlled trials comparing the modified Paleolithic diet to usual diet demonstrated favorable outcomes for fatigue and quality of life (QoL) among individuals with progressive or RRMS.
Irish AK, Erickson CM, Wahls TL, et al. Randomized control trial evaluation of a modified paleolithic dietary intervention in the treatment of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis: a pilot study. Degener Neurol Neuromuscul Dis 2017; 7: 1–18.
Lee JE, Titcomb TJ, Bisht B, et al. A modified MCT based ketogenic diet increases plasma betahydroxybutyrate but has less effect on fatigue and quality of life in people with multiple sclerosis compared to a modified paleolithic diet: a waitlist controlled, randomized pilot study. J Am Coll Nutr 2021; 40: 13– 13.
Dr Wahls’ most recent published study compared the Wahls protocol with the Swank diet, a low saturated fat diet historically popular with those suffering from MS. They found that adoption of both the Swank and Wahls diets were associated with reduced fatigue and improved QoL for up to 24 weeks. It is important to consider how these two diets are similar rather than how they differ. Both diets include recommendations unsaturated fats and for limited intake of highly processed foods.
Wahls TL, Titcomb TJ, Bisht B, et al. Impact of the Swank and Wahls elimination dietary interventions on fatigue and quality of life in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: The WAVES randomized parallel-arm clinical trial. Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2021;7(3):20552173211035400. doi:10.1177/20552173211035399
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