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Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who follow a low-protein and low-calorie diet interspersed with periods of fasting may see find that this helps to ease some of their symptoms, according to a new study.
An investigation carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California found that fasting for three days out of seven mimics the effects of fasting without depriving a person of vital nutrients, but while easing some of the painful inflammation associated with MS.
This discovery was made during a study involving mice with autoimmune disease. The creatures were divided into two groups, with one being given a normal diet, while the second was fed a low-calorie, low-protein diet that required them to fast for three days each week.
Results showed that the mice following the part-time fasting plan experienced reduced inflammation. Doctors believe these findings may provide hope to people with MS, with a similar diet also potentially reducing their symptoms.
In addition, it was found that the diet boosted the mice's production of immune cells, allowing their bodies to improve the way they fought off illness and infection.
Professor Valter Longo, lead author of the study, explained: "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.
"On the one hand, this fasting-mimicking diet kills bad immune cells. Then, after the mice return to the normal diet, the good immune cells but also the myelin-producing cells are generated, allowing a percentage of mice to reach a disease-free state."
The second half of the investigation involved patients with relapsing-remitting MS following either a fasting-mimicking diet for one week followed by a Mediterranean-style diet for six months, or a high-fat ketogenic diet.
It was found that both types of diet led to improvements in patients' MS symptoms, and further research is now being planned to determine whether or not a Mediterranean diet alone can have the same effect.
Written by Martin Lambert
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