How would you feel about following a calorie-restricted diet, if it might reverse the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and help repair the damage caused by the disease?
Scientists are so excited about the findings achieved so far that they are moving to large-scale human trials, and have already taken the unusual step of recommending it for very ill patients “who cannot wait” for the trials to be completed.
The treatment mimics the effects of fasting, and simply involves cutting normal calorie counts in half for three days in every seven. That’s it, no medications, no surgery — just a diet that does not involve special diet foods.
Is it too good to be true — could reversing the effects of multiple sclerosis be that easy? Only time will tell. I, for one, will wait for the outcome of the large-scale trials before discussing, with my doctor, the suitability of such a diet for me.
According to the study1, published in Cell Reports, scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) showed that, in mice, the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) significantly lowered the percentage of damaging immune cells and allowed the protective myelin coating to regrow.
The study also states that human MS patients were put on the diet to check that it was not harmful to their health. The scientists report that the participants enjoyed an improved quality of life and scored better on the Extended Disability Status Scale (EDSS). This measurement assesses various abilities, including mobility and balance, tremors, speech, and swallowing.
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Professor Valter Longo, who directs the USC Longevity Institute, is one of the study’s lead authors. He said: “The effect on humans was improvements for both quality of life and EDSS. This is remarkable because we only did a single cycle of the FMD for humans and tested them three and six months after.
“Since the pilot human trial was small, now we are setting up a large multi-center clinical trial. However, because we have already tested this and similar diets on hundreds of patients with various diseases, I believe this can be tried now by MS patients who cannot wait.”
These latest findings follow studies by the same USC lab, reporting that the diet can entirely reboot the immune system
“We started thinking: If it kills a lot of immune cells and turns on the stem cells, is it possible that maybe it will kill the bad ones and then generate new good ones?” Professor Longo said. “That’s why we started this study.
“During the fasting-mimicking diet, cortisone is produced and that initiates a killing of autoimmune cells. This process also leads to the production of new healthy cells.”
A note of caution was added by Nick Rijke, executive director of Policy and Research at the UK’s MS Society. He said: “Diet is an emerging area of MS research and one that we know many people with MS are interested in.”
However, he added,”[w]hile this study showed encouraging results on animal models, there was little investigation into the benefits for people with MS — which is why we’re funding research into this area.”
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