According to a preliminary study, a ketogenic diet consisting primarily of foods such as fish, meat, eggs, butter, heavy cream, oils as well as non-starchy veggies such as peppers, broccoli, carrots, and pea pods may be safe for individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis. The study also found individuals with multiple sclerosis may experience less depression and fatigue and have reported an improvement in quality of life while following the diet.
A high fat, protein adequate, and low carbohydrate ketogenic diet enables fat to be utilized as the main source of energy by the body as opposed to sugars, thereby mimicking a state of fasting. A ketogenic diet can help to reduce glucose levels in type II diabetes as well as improve seizure control in individuals who have epilepsy.
A change in diet can be a cost-effective method to improve general health, so this study looked into whether consuming a ketogenic diet is safe and helpful for individuals coping with multiple sclerosis.
For the study, 65 individuals with a relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis diagnosis were recruited. This is the most common form of multiple sclerosis, characterized by flare-ups of symptoms then periods of remission.
For 6 months the individuals participating in the study ate a ketogenic diet. They were advised to consume 2 to 3 ketogenic meals daily consisting of 1 to 2 helpings of proteins low in carbohydrates such as meat, fish, or eggs together with 2 to 4 tbsps of fat like oil, butter, heavy cream, ghee or avocado, and 1 to 2 cups of non-starchy veggies like cauliflower, cucumbers or leafy greens.
Snacks were also permitted provided that individuals observed the maximum daily carbohydrate allowance of 20 grams. Diet adherence was checked by testing urine every day to measure a metabolite produced when the body’s burning fats known as ketones. The diet was followed by 83% of the individuals for the full duration of the study.
Surveys and tests were completed before the diet started and again at 3 and 6 months while still on the diet to measure the quality of life and level of disability. It was found that individuals had less body fat after 6 months, as well as a reduction in depression and fatigue scores.
The individuals were asked questions on a quality-of-life survey which provided a mental and physical health score that ranges from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating improved mental and physical health.
They had a physical health score of 67 at the beginning of the study in comparison to a score of 79 on average after the study. They had a mental health score of 71 at the beginning of the study in comparison to a score of 82 on average after the study.
There was also an improvement in scores on a commonly used progression test for multiple sclerosis disease. On a 0 to 10 scale, with a score of 1 indicating no disability, 2 indicating minimal disability, and 3 indicating moderate disability with the ability to walk still, the individual score at the beginning of the study was 2.3 on average in comparison to 1.9 after the study. On a walking test of 6 minutes, individuals walked 1,631 feet on average at the beginning of the study in comparison to 1,733 feet after the study.
Blood samples were also taken and improvements in inflammatory marker levels were in found the blood. The study results confirm that a ketogenic diet may be safe and help to reduce some symptoms for individuals having multiple sclerosis when applied over 6 months.
More studies are however required given that there are potential risks linked to ketogenic diets like nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and kidney stones. It's important that individuals with multiple sclerosis consult with a physician prior to making any big diet adjustments, and that they are monitored regularly by a registered dietitian and physician while following a ketogenic diet.
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