USC Research Shows Fasting-mimicking Diet May Decrease Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

A study, led by the University of Southern California (USC) concludes that a diet resembling the effects of fasting must be further researched as a potential therapy for multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions. It decreased symptoms in animal model, and even corrected them in few animals. Early outcomes of an initial study in human sufferers also recommend the fasting mimicking diet is safe, feasible, and possibly effective. This new research is presented in the journal, ‘Cell Reports’.

Senior researcher and professor Valter Longo, who directs the Longevity Institute at USC’s Davis School of Gerontology, states that they identified the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) activates a cellular death-and-life process that seems to be critical for bodily repair. He describes:

“Throughout the fasting-mimicking diet, cortisone is generated and that triggers a killing of autoimmune cells. This procedure also causes production of new healthy cells.”

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition where the immune system progressively interrupts the blood-brain barrier and strikes the myelin sheath of proteins and fats that protects nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain.

As the unpredictable disease advances, the onslaught on the myelin sheath gradually leads to the electrical signals carried by the nerves to leak out. This provides rise to symptoms that get even worse, varying from mild numb feeling in the arms and legs to paralysis and blindness.

MS is believed to affect about 2.3 million individuals globally. In the United States, estimates are that about 350,000 Americans have MS.

‘Complete recovery in 20 % of mice’

In  their previous work, Prof. Longo and his research team had examined cycles of an identical FMD to the one in the new research with anti-cancer medication and identified the combination protected healthy cells and weakened cancer cells.

In 2015, they documented how an FMD enhanced lifespan and health span of mice and decreased risk aspects connected to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes in humans.

The outcomes from those previous studies prompted them to examine the potential for the FMD to have a identical result in MS. Prof. Valter Longo states that they requested themselves perhaps it could it clear out the bad cells and assist generate good ones.

The new research is in two parts: tests on mice and a little initial trial on humans.

Initially, the investigators began with 2 groups of mice with autoimmune disease. One group was placed on a low-calorie and low-protein FMD comprising three cycles of fasting that lasted for 3 days out of every  7. The other group (the controls) were put on a regular diet.

The authors observe the FMD decreased symptoms in all the mice and “activated full recovery for 20% of the animals.”

Additional tests exposed the FMD mice had enhanced levels of corticosterone, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands to control metabolism.

The FMD mice also had enhanced levels of immune T cells and decreased levels of inflammation-resulting in cytokines – proteins that direct other cells to repair sites of trauma, infection, or other pain.

And finally – the investigators identified the FMD mice revealed signs of regeneration of myelin that had been destroyed by the autoimmunity.

‘Kills bad cells, produces good and myelin-producing cells’

In individuals with MS, it is the T cells that strike the myelin sheath and harm the nerves. From the outcomes in the mice, it seems to be that the cycles of fasting in the FMD may intervene with this process, while also promoting regrowth, as Prof. Longo explains:

“On one side, this fasting mimicking diet destroys bad immune cells. Then, following the mice return to the normal diet, the good immune cells but also the myelin developing cells are produced, enabling a percentage of mice to arrive at a disease-free condition.”

In the 2nd part of the research, the investigators examined the safety and possible efficacy of the FMD on 60 individuals with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). RRMS is the very frequent form of MS, where sufferers have symptom flare-ups interspersed with periods of recovery.

The sufferers were randomly allocated to a control diet, a high-fat, ketogenic diet (KD group), or a modified human FMD for 1 week, followed by a Mediterranean diet for 6 months (FMD group).

The investigators observe the FMD and KD groups “shown clinically significant developments” in a scale that measures entire change in health, quality of life, physical health, and mental health.

The team highlights the preliminary nature of the results, and notices the study is also restricted by the fact it did not test if the Mediterranean diet by itself would result in similar enhancements. Additionally, it did not consist of any imaging or immune function analyses.