I’m not a doctor, but I have a vested interest in Multiple Sclerosis, my mother. If you are looking into the Ketogenic Diet as a means to treat symptoms of MS, please do consult your doctor first.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a central nervous and immune system disease that effects the body in many ways; with vision, balance, walking, muscle weakness and spasms, numbness and inflammation. My mother has Relapsing-Remitting MS, which is defined by aggressive inflammatory attacks on the myelin in the central nervous system. During each inflammatory attacks (relapse, then remitting) the immune cells cause small, areas of damage (like scar tissue) that make the MS symptoms appear. There is no cure for MS. However there are ways to treat the symptoms. Two of the more commonly prescribed are steroids and muscle relaxants to treat inflammation. Growing evidence supports the reduction of inflammation among followers of the ketogenic diet, and therefore I wanted to do a research article review on current evidence to support this.
Study 1 – Assessing Blood Lipid Improvements on the Keto Diet
Many doctors still adhere to low-fat is best. More and more research is showing we should eat fat to lose fat and improve insulin resistance and our overall cholesterol levels.
In 2012 a randomized, controlled trial began where researchers hypothesized that the Keto Diet and prolonged fasting would improve Quality of Life in Relapsing-Remitting MS patients. A 6 month pilot study examined 60 patients, divided between their usual diet, those who partook in an initial 7-day fast and a third group who started the Keto diet. Blood lipid profiles were used to assess health. (1)
Results: Researchers found that both prolonged fasting and the Keto diet groups were feasible options; blood lipid profiles improved with both. The Keto Diet specifically had a sustainable, positive effect on LDL/HDL ratio and triglycerides. High Cholesterol may be associated with disease progression in MS patients, therefore positive effects on reducing Cholesterol may improve Quality of Life. Researchers believe that the Keto Diet could positively influence Relapsing-Remitting MS outcomes when used in addition to conventional treatments.
Study 2 – Why Blood Lipid Improvements are Significant
The more progressively debilitating MS becomes, the worse the lipid profile results (high cholesterol). In a 2011 study (2), researchers found that worsening disability is associated with higher LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides levels. Higher HDL (your good cholesterol) is associated with lower levels of acute inflammatory activity. Subsequently, the Keto Diet does just that: lowers your LDL and raises your HDL (3).
What it means:
While researchers agree they may not understand exactly why the keto diet may offer protection to the neurological system, they can agree on this: there is strong evidence to support being in ketosis helps cells resist damage from inflammation caused by MS, lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol levels – leading to a healthier profile overall.
- Ketogenic diet and prolonged fasting improve health-related quality of life and lipid profiles in multiple sclerosis – A randomized controlled trial
- Serum lipid profiles are associated with disability and MRI outcomes in multiple sclerosis.
- Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors.