Vegetable-Based Diet Leads to Lower Fatigue in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

Patients with progressive multiple sclerosis who were placed on the Wahls diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables, found to experience improved fatigue levels.

Higher levels of blood high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol, may improve fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new research by University of Buffalo.

Despite the prevalence and severity of the impact fatigue has on patients with MS, little is known on how to treat adverse effect condition. Furthermore, the medications used to treat fatigue often come with additional unwanted adverse effects.

The pilot study, which aimed to investigate the effects of fat levels in blood on fatigue caused by MS, found that lowering total cholesterol also reduced exhaustion. These results highlight the impact that changes in diet could have on severe fatigue.

"Fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis has been viewed as a complex and difficult clinical problem with contributions from disability, depression and inflammation. Our study implicates lipids and fat metabolism in fatigue," said study lead author Murall Ramanathan, PhD. "This is a novel finding that may open doors to new approaches for treating fatigue."

The researchers followed 18 patients with progressive MS who were placed on the Wahls diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables, over the course of a year. The diet encourages the consumption of meat, plant protein, fish oil and vitamin B, while excluding gluten, diary, and eggs.

Previous studies found that diet-based intervention accompanied by exercise, stress reduction, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is effective at lowering fatigue; however, physiological changes underlying the improvements were unknown.

These researchers examined changes in body mass index (BMI), calories, total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is commonly known as bad cholesterol. Fatigue was measured on the Fatigue Severity Scale.

According to the study authors, 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. Patients consumed fewer calories and experienced decreases in BMI and levels of triglyceride and LDL; however, these factors were found unrelated to changes in fatigue, according to the study.


  • Vegetable-rich Wahls diet lowers fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients by raising good cholesterol [press release]. Buffalo, NY. Published August 15, 2019. Accessed August 21, 2019.

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