Study under review: Diet Mimicking Fasting Promotes Regeneration and Reduces Autoimmunity and Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder characterized by muscle weakness and numbness, as well as problems with vision and bladder control. It is caused by the immune system attacking nerve-insulating myelin sheaths, which disrupts the communication between the brain and peripheral parts of the body. The disease is generally classified as either primary progressive MS or relapsing-remitting MS.
Primary-progressive MS is characterized by a progressively worsening neurological function that is evidenced by continuous symptoms, although these may change over time. Relapsing-remitting MS is characterized by clearly defined episodes that are separated by periods of remission from the disease. During remission there is a complete absence of symptoms with no apparent progression of the disease.
Oligodendrocytes are glial cells that help create the myelin sheath around nerve axons in the central nervous system (CNS). These cells are critical for the development of the brain and ensure correct functioning of the nerve cells. The myelin sheath they produce acts as insulation that protects long nerve projections (known as axons) and facilitates the conduction of nerve signals.
During MS there is a loss of myelin in defined areas—known as lesion sites—in the brain and spinal cord. The process leading to lesions is summarized in Figure 1. MS is characterized by a large array of invading immune cells, such as T-cells (tissue-infiltrating immune cells), B-cells (cells that secrete antibodies) and macrophages (a type of white blood cell that engulfs other cells and molecules). These cells attack and degrade the myelin sheath, the myelin-producing oligodendrocytes, and the nerve axon. Lesion sites develop over time and initially result in clinically benign symptoms, but they progress to significant disabilities.
References: Trapp B, Nave KA. Multiple Sclerosis: An Immune or Neurodegenerative Disorder? Annu. Rev. Neurosci, 2008.
Bar-Or A. The immunology of multiple sclerosis. Semin Neurol. Feb 2008.
Some studies on animal models of MS have suggested that various forms of dietary restriction, such as calorie restriction, intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet, protect neurons and reduce inflammation. Studies have also shown that periodic fasting can improve cognitive function and reduce oxidative stress. A new study utilizing a diet that mimics fasting was tested to determine its effects on autoimmunity and inflammation.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system during which the immune system attacks and destroys the myelin sheath around nerve axons. Most treatments for multiple sclerosis are immunosuppressive and do not alleviate autoimmunity or regenerate the damage already caused. New research hopes to determine the role diet and nutrition could have on overcoming multiple sclerosis.
Other Articles in Issue #21 (July 2016)
Interview: Norm Robillard, PhD
Gut health is extremely variable and complex, so learning from experts is important. Norm is a microbiologist whose expertise lies in the effect of diet on gut conditions.
Let the sun shine in! (to your retinal ganglion cells)
We've covered the detriments of night-time blue light before, but how important is getting blue light during the work day? This controlled trial looked at its effect on working memory.
How can researchers figure out the role of your genetics in determining the kinds of bacteria you have in your gut? Get over a thousand sets of twins and do some fancy testing. We describe the results here.
Dampening exam anxiety with probiotics
When you're stressed out for an exam, you probably don't instinctively reach for probiotics. Your microbiome may impact anxiety though, and this trial tested a probiotic for anxiety-lessening around exam time.
Probiotics and prebiotics for atopic dermatitis
This meta-analysis looked at all the existing trials on the common type of eczema called "atopic dermatitis", to see if combining pro- and prebiotics helps reduce symptoms.
Potential relief for IBS through vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t just for bone health. Its role in dampening inflammation and regulating immune responses suggest that it may help in treating IBS, which is directly tested in this randomized trial.
Interview: Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle is the senior dietitian at the nutrition and fitness tracking juggernaut MyFitnessPal. We discuss some tips for new moms thinking about diet considerations.
Fish oil showdown: anti-inflammatory effects of EPA vs. DHA
Chronic inflammation is a driver of many health conditions, and plays a key role in heart disease. Fish oil is a popular supplement partly due to its potential anti-inflammatory actions. But which omega-3 has a greater impact, EPA or DHA?
Heavy menstrual bleeding in athletes
An increasing proportion of athletes are female, yet the persistent issue of menstruation is rarely researched in the context of athletics. This study gets the ball rolling.