More fruits, veggies, less gluten, dairy good for multiple sclerosis patients: Study

Adhering to Wahls diet lowered levels of the total cholesterol and reduced exhaustion in patients

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 16 August 2019

Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables but low on gluten and dairy can increase the level of good cholesterol in blood and reduce fatigue, which affects 80 per cent patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.

MS is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, in which the body's immune system eats away the protective covering of nerves. As a result, the flow of information within the brain; and between the brain and body gets disrupted.

MS patients who followed the Wahls diet — high in fruits and vegetables, meat, plant protein, fish oil and B vitamins, but low on gluten, dairy and eggs — had lower levels of total cholesterol, claimed researchers with the University at Buffalo.   

Their pilot study examined the role of fat levels on fatigue caused by MS. Medications to treat severe fatigue often have side-effects. 

Those on the diet showed an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol and decrease in exhaustion, according to the study published PLOS ONE journal.

“Higher levels of HDL had the greatest impact on fatigue, possibly because good cholesterol plays a critical role in muscle, stimulating glucose uptake and increasing respiration in cells to improve physical performance and muscle strength,” Murali Ramanathan, professor at the varsity, in a release.

The researchers followed 18 progressive MS patients for a year. They were placed on the Wahls diet and changes in their body mass index (BMI), calories, total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol were analysed.

While the patients also engaged in a exercises such as stretches and strength training, following the diet had major effect on fatigue levels, the researchers said.

While previous studies proved that a diet-based intervention accompanied by exercise, stress reduction and neuromuscular electrical stimulation can be effective in lowering fatigue, the physiological changes underlying the improvements remained unknown.

The new finding may help researchers to examine the effects of metabolic changes on fatigue and open doors to new approaches for treating the condition.

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