Fasting for seven days followed by six months of a Mediterranean diet results in an improvement in white blood T-cells – essential for immunity – and in the myelin sheath, which insulates nerve fibres in the spine. In MS patients, T cells attack the myelin sheath, which results in the degeneration seen with the disease.
Leading the research is Valter Longo, from the University of Southern California, a pioneer of fasting, which he believes has benefits for a wide range of diseases, especially auto-immune ones.
His latest research was in two parts: first on a group of laboratory mice with auto-immune disease, and then on 60 MS patients. In the human study, 18 patients fasted for seven days – where calorie intake is drastically reduced – before switching to a Mediterranean diet, while 12 were put on a controlled diet and 18 others on a ketogenic (high-fat) diet.
Those who fasted and others on the ketogenic diet both reported improvements in their quality of life, and their overall health.
Longo believes that fasting is a realistic option for anyone with an autoimmune disease and for whom all the other options have been exhausted. However, he sounds a note of warning: “We are optimistic, but we don’t want patients to try this at home without involving their specialist or without understanding that larger trials are necessary to confirm that the diet, as a treatment, is effective against MS or other auto-immunities.”
(Source: Cell Reports, 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.05.009)