Big bowl of a healthy salad, illustrating how a ketogenic diet may be for MS may have long-lasting benefits

Ketogenic diet for MS may have long-lasting benefits

A ketogenic diet significantly reduced disease symptoms, and measures of body fat and fatigue, and improved exercise capacity, arm and hand dexterity and cognition in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study found.

Lots of the benefits were maintained for at least three months after the study finished, but difficulties in maintaining the strict diet in the real world meant a lot of the measures worsened again.

A ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat. It was developed to control epileptic seizures. Eating a diet high in fat, with moderate protein and minimal carbohydrate

Sixty-four MS patients enrolled in the study. Of these, 57 completed the six months on a ketogenic diet. After this time, 27 participants reported a lessening of MS symptoms – 41% saw a reduction of prickling sensations, 15% less numbness, and improved balance for 15%. A reduction in headaches was experienced by 15%, 7% had reduced urinary urgency, and 4% of participants had reduced muscle spasms and 4% improved visual symptoms.

Almost all of the participants – 93% – said they would recommend the diet to others with MS.

But many participants found the diet challenging to stick to once the study was over, with 44% citing the avoidance of typical foods or ingredients being a problem, 31.5% saying eating out was too challenging while on the diet, as well as increasing their overall fat intake (14%).

Patients who opted to stop the ketogenic diet were asked about the most frequent changes they noticed when no longer following the eating plan. A lack of sustained weight loss was reported by 62%, and on-diet fatigue reduction by 49%. Worse concentration (30%), anxiety (25%), MS symptoms (23%), and sleep (23%), among others, also were reported by individuals who stopped the keto diet.

Blood tests showed that participants’ vitamin D levels stayed higher in the following three months, and their blood sugar levels had remained reduced, as did the levels of circulating fats, including cholesterol.

Researchers pointed out that “the intervention and follow-up phase of this research is relatively short,” with further studies needed on longer-term effects.”