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Intermittent Fasting Results in Beneficial Immune and Metabolic Changes in People with MS, Says Society-funded Study

July 27, 2022

Restricting calories for a couple of days a week reduced certain immune cells and molecules involved in lipid metabolism (processing of fats) in people with MS in a small study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The study was funded by the National MS Society.
  • Background: What is the best diet for people with MS? What difference does diet make in the disease course? Efforts are underway to answer these questions with rigorous studies.
  • Details of this study: The ATAC-MS Study compared three diets: a control diet (100% of calorie needs 7 days/week), a daily calorie restriction diet (78% of calorie needs 7 days/week) and an intermittent calorie restriction diet, also called intermittent fasting (25% of calorie needs 2 consecutive days/week; 100% of calorie needs 5 days/week).
  • Compared to the control diet, both calorie restriction diets resulted in weight loss and improvements in  emotional well-being. These results were previously reported.
  • The team then extended the study to explore how daily versus intermittent calorie restriction affected immune and metabolic function, because lab studies had suggested intermittent fasting could reduce inflammation. To explore this question, they analyzed blood samples taken throughout the study.
  • The results suggested that intermittent fasting reduced certain immune T cells (such as some involved in MS immune attacks), increased other types of T cells, and altered levels of molecules involved in lipid metabolism (how the body processes fats).
  • Further, larger studies are necessary to confirm the findings and explore whether they indicate that the diet can directly reduce MS-related disease activity.
Learn more… “Intermittent calorie restriction alters T cell subsets and metabolic markers in people with multiple sclerosis” by Kathryn C. Fitzgerald, Pavan Bhargava, Matthew D. Smith, Diane Vizthum, Bobbie Henry-Barron, Michael D. Kornberg, Sandra D. Cassard, Dimitrios Kapogiannis, Patrick Sullivan, David J. Baer, Peter A. Calabresi, and Ellen M. Mowry is published in eBioMedicine (published online July 8, 2022.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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