New York: People with multiple sclerosis (MS) could benefit from a low-fat diet to improve the fatigue that's a debilitating, and often-underappreciated, symptom of the condition, according to a small study, led by an Indian-origin researcher.
A low-fat diet is one that restricts fat, and often saturated fat and cholesterol as well. MS is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Fatigue that occurs with the degenerative disease can make it harder for people to go about with everyday tasks.
"Fatigue is very disabling for MS patients," said principal investigator and senior author Vijayshree Yadav, Professor of neurology at the Oregon Health & Science University, in the US.
"There is no FDA-approved drug for fatigue, but we know that fatigue greatly affects their quality of life," she added.
In the study, published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, the researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial in which 39 people with MS who experienced fatigue were divided into two groups: 19 people were placed in the control group and received diet training at the completion of the study after 16 weeks.
The other 20 received nutrition counselling from dieticians and then adhered to a low-fat diet, which was confirmed through routine blood sampling revealing clear signals of reduced caloric intake.
"You cannot really fudge the biomarkers," Yadav said.
In contrast to a 2016 study that tested a purely plant-based diet, the new study was modified to include meat while still remaining low-fat. Exercise was not part of the programme, meaning the study solely focused on diet as an intervention.
Compared with the control group, the active group of participants revealed significant improvement in fatigue, which was gauged through the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale.
Every four weeks, participants answered standardised questions measuring aspects such as their ability to pay attention, concentrate and to carry out routine physical activities.
"The results reinforced what we had seen before," Yadav said. "A low-fat diet can truly make a difference in a patient's fatigue level, even without going so far as to make it a vegan diet."