Foods like meat, fish, eggs, heavy cream, butter, oils, and non-starchy vegetables like pea pods, carrots, broccoli, and peppers are used.
“A ketogenic diet helps lower blood sugar levels in people with type II diabetes and improve seizure control in people with epilepsy”, said study author J. Nicholas Brenton, MD, of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
However, it has not been well-studied in people with MS. And so, the new study explored whether eating a ketogenic diet is safe, tolerable, and beneficial for people living with MS.
The study enrolled 65 people diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form of the disease, marked by symptom flare-ups followed by periods of remission. Study participants consumed a ketogenic diet for six months.
They were instructed to consume two to three ketogenic meals per day consisting of one to two servings of low-carbohydrate proteins such as eggs, fish, or meat alongside two to four tablespoons of fat, such as butter, oil, avocado, ghee or heavy cream, and one to two cups of non-starchy vegetables such as cucumbers, leafy greens or cauliflower.
Snacks were also allowed as long as participants followed the maximum daily carbohydrate allowance of 20 grams. Adherence to the diet was monitored by daily urine tests to measure ketones, a metabolite produced by the body when it is burning fats.
A total of 83 percent of participants adhered to the diet for the full study period. Participants completed tests and surveys before the start of the diet and again at three and six months while on the diet to measure the level of disability and quality of life.
Researchers found that not only did participants have less body fat after six months, they also had a decline in fatigue and depression scores.
On a quality-of-life survey, the physical health and mental health scores of the participants also improved on a common MS disease progression test.
The score representing disability improved from the start of the study compared to at the end. On a six-minute walking test, participants walked an average of 1,631 feet at the start of the study compared to 1,733 feet at the end.
Researchers also took blood samples and found participants had improvements in the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.
This study provides evidence that a ketogenic diet may indeed be safe and beneficial, reducing some symptoms for people with MS, when used over six months .
However, more research is needed because there are potential risks associated with ketogenic diets, such as kidney stones, digestive issues, and nutrient deficiencies. A limitation of the study was the lack of a control group of people with MS who consumed their regular, non-ketogenic diet.