About a couple of weeks ago I happened to watch the Horizon program on BBC2 hosted by Michael Mosley. The main focus of this episode was about living longer by fasting regularly and calorie restriction, resulting in a greatly reduced risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. In the course of the program he happened to mention some research conducted on mice. Through fasting, the mice not only lived longer, they also developed new brain cells. The theory being that if you have no available food you need to apply some brain power in order to find your next meal and therefore new brain cells are made. Straight away I thought of how this might be useful for people like myself with MS, as our brain cells are always under attack. Surely if we can make new ones it can only be a positive thing and could potentially slow the progression of the disease. I for one am not waiting to find out. I have already started my own fasting program, that which was recommended in the documentary i.e every week fitting in a two day fast where as a woman on these days you should consume no more than 300 - 400 calories (for men 500 - 600) The other five days of the week you can eat normally. Does anyone else have an opinion on this?
I saw the programme too, and found it very interesting.
As a typical joe with no medical traing whatsoever, part-time fasting seemed to be a possible solution to so many problems - not only MS-related
I did wonder why the MS Society didn’t seem to have ever suggested this approach?
The only conclusions I could draw from this were:
a) So far, there’s insufficient evidence to suggest this method may be effective!
b) (…and with my cynical hat on) There’s no money to be made this way, so the MS Society would have no interest in promoting this method!
c) It simply doesn’t help MS !!
I can’t help thinking that if MS could be ‘fixed’ one way or another, would there then be any need for an MS Society at all? Would a ‘cure’ be in the Society’s interest?
…Just thinking out loud !!
Each to their own as they say,but I think my life is hard enough as it is to knowingly deprieve myself of food is a big noooooo.
Nah, the idea of fasting is so that the benefits people can omit those days when you wont need grub.
Talk about using the media to reduce consumption. I defo couldnt fast because Ive got crumbling bones.
Am I an old cynic or what? Maybe there is something in it, if your fit and well, but ill - I cant see it does us anygood because it may be that ms is due to us missing out on some vital element, who knows.
ps: next it will be those who freeze a wee bit in winter are in better health - watch this space!
Thanx for the above replies. I agree that fasting is not for everyone, especially for people with certain medical conditions or pregnant women for example. I myself had my doubts as to whether I could do it, working part time with two young lively children but so far I’ve managed the last couple of weeks and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I make sure I drink alot. When I start to feel hungry I might nibble on some melon or something similar and the hunger always goes away again.
On the fast days I’ve also noticed that I have such a good nights sleep (perhaps developing those new brain cells!!) as usually I am a very restless sleeper (have often wondered if this has something to do with my MS). For me anything is worth a try to combat this disease and it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Plus even if it doesn’t help MS, it definitely had an improvement on the risk of developing the afore mentioned diseases. I guess like with lots of research, even more research need to be done, as the brain cell formation research was only done using mice, I think.
Not sure what to say about the comments about ms society. I am naturally by nature cynical myself and know all to well that it’s money that makes the world go round. I don’t see that fasting, if proven effective, would be a cure for ms because the causes of demylination would still be present.
I was told by my neurologist that everyone’s brain has a reserve. i.e. if part of your brain is damaged another part of your brain will compensate by tapping into this reserve. He said that with ms this reserve will over time gradually decrease until their is no reserve. This is what makes me feel positive about this fasting research. If you can potentially make new brain cells then you can keep adding to the reserve. Are there any medical practitioners out their who could add to this?
I would be very wary. One of the main problems with MS is fatigue and we need food for energy. I don’t think I’m the only one who, on bad fatigue days, feels hungry all the time. This is my body searching for an energy source.
There is a letter in Radio Times from a health professional who works with people with eating disorders. She was furious about the programme as said people with anorexia look for any excuse to covince themselves that ‘not eating’ is good for them. (not really related to your question I know but interesting).
The Olympics were held during the Muslim period of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day and only eat after sun-down for about 6 weeks. The athletes were excused from fasting because they would not have the energy to compete in athletics. Also older people and anyone with health issues are excused.
Be very careful of your fatigue levels… we are not mice.
In what way does “The theory being that if you have no available food you need to apply some brain power in order to find your next meal and therefore new brain cells are made” apply to humans?! We get new “how to open the fridge door” cells???
Sorry to be sarcastic, but this is the silliest thing I’ve heard in a long time!
Fasting may well be good for general health (I have no idea if it is or it isn’t), but I would be utterly astonished if it did anything for MS.
@Dom: why on earth would the MSS care whether there is any money to be made from it? They are a non-profit organisation with a small staff and no commercial interests whatsoever. Moreover, the MSS spends a small fortune every year trying to find a cure for MS.
I think I’ve entered the twilight zone!
several weeks ago i was introduced to a nutritionalist with a view to improving my diet. I am now on a vegan diet and was given DVD’s promoting the benefits of fasting and the ills of the western diet - see True North Health website for info if your are interested. I fasted for a week as a detox and will fast every quarter for a few days. Very interesting subject and I think anything is worth a try, as I cant walk and am prepared to gamble whats left!. We need protein and nutrients but my diet gives me plenty of both, I am not convinced we need animal products. So far pretty much as before, but I view this as a long term project.Great post, thanks. Peter
Has Lamarckian evolution made a come back as a theory? Darwin will be rolling in his grave… Biology isn’t quite that linear I’m afraid. Organisms and cells aren’t sentient beings who make reasoned assessments of need and develop accordingly. When I say Lamarckian theory I am referring to an evolutionist who theorised that giraffes grew long necks, for example, to enable them to eat from the high trees… Much as you are saying our brains will develop new cells to seek out more food. How can you even assume the cells that do grow are cells that have to do with reasoned cognition? And if they are and my MS deficit is primarily a motor deficit how is it going to help???
Sorry, this is complete nonsense.
Yes. There is much to think about here. For years I’ve been convinced that ms has something to do with diet, but I’ve largely given up posting anything about it as I often used to get such negative world weary responses. Occasionally I pop up with something but mostly I keep myself to myself and don’t put my head above the parapet any more.
Diet is key to the survival of the human species, but usually you get ‘there is no evidence’ or this or that. So I just carry on doing things the way I do them.
"b) (…and with my cynical hat on) There’s no money to be made this way, so the MS Society would have no interest in promoting this method!..and
“I can’t help thinking that if MS could be ‘fixed’ one way or another, would there then be any need for an MS Society at all? Would a ‘cure’ be in the Society’s interest?”
Oh dear Liamsqash (Dom)…do you think that if you tried really hard, that you could use some of those brain cells to realise how offensive those comments are?
Yeah. I’m offended. I’m very grateful for the MSS and the work they did in the late 90s to get access to the DMDs in 2002. I’m very grateful that the forums exist. I’ve learned a lot from this site. I’ve made some wonderful friends here over the years.
I’ve learned a lot about LDN from this board. I’ve learned about diet. I’ve learned about who is doing the front-line research and I may not understand the medical language, I can ask someone who can.
No one from the MSS tells anyone what to take or do on these boards. You could post about your miracle cure due to eating six chillies a day - just so long as you stick to the T&Cs.
Let’s hope that you never need a grant for a special bed or other equipment. If you do and can’t afford it, the MSS provide grants to help people.
The MSS has helped many people, but they won’t and can’t promote just one way to treat MS as there is NO single treatment to stop MS.
Anyone who knows anything about MS, knows that no one has found the trigger for MS.
There is no single diet that helps all.
I tried a raw food vegan diet and it did make me feel much better. Now, I eat a Paleolithic type of diet, no gluten or pulses and limited dairy. It works for me and I read about it HERE. Like Josef Kloz, I don’t post about it very often. I tried diet as I’d reached rock-bottom physically after a 9 month long relapse and was extremely surprised to feel so good so fast. However, what worked for me, won’t for the next person to read this thread.
I’ve tried intermittent fasting. I quite like it, but it hasn’t made me smarter and again, it won’t work for everyone. I really don’t subscribe to the braincell principle.
It can be quite useful for people like me with a high risk of developing diabetes, although my endocrinologist wasn’t enthusiastic and she’s very pro-low carbohydrate diets.
Look! We’re discussing diet - and as there are several diets and approaches, there’ll be disagreement - but that’s fine as long as we all disagree politely.
Hello again! Just wanted to point out that it was the scientists in the horizon program that not only found and displayed the results and evidence of the new brain cell development but it was also the same scientists who came up with the theory as to possibly why these mice developed the new cells. The new brain cells definitely seemed to appear due to the fasting. The theory side of it as to why this happened when they fasted was only a suggestion by the scientists (and not little old humble me I have to add.) It would probably be a good idea if you could watch the Horizon program yourself and then make up your own mind. Am actually on a fast day right now and I feel great, possibly even more energised than normal. I still take all my normal supplements every single day, so I don’t think I’m missing out on any nutritional elements particularly e.g. calcium, vitamin B complex, antioxidants, fish oils. Hope you do get the chance to see the program because it was pretty fascinating. Do a web search under something like ‘BBC2 Horizon Michael Mosley fasting and reduced calorie intake’.
i’m going to look on i-player. very interesting indeedy!
i have been going off meat for a couple of years. my family keep nagging me to eat some protein, occasionally i give in and try meat but end up gagging on it.
i’ve looked into diets for ms. tried the best bet diet but that was too extreme, no gluten and no dairy.
i don’t eat much bread just a slice of toast with my runny egg but i dont want to give it up.
anyway thanks for posting this
i watched programme found fascinating,always bit sceptical about diets, processed food etc
read dr lelenek book too who advises a vegan diet,but recently given eggs
lost 1/2 stone and physio said need to make sure get calories and energy, eat beans or eggs,
tried eggs for 2 days and legs had mind of their own
just veg and fish now
I am very sceptical about these sort of claims. The people who stick religiously to fasting regularly are going to be living on chicken tikka masala pizza and Frappuccino for the other 6 days of the week, right? Of course they aren’t - they are mildly (at least) obsessive health nuts who are as far removed from a normal person as it is possible to be. Ditto, punitive calorie restrictions. We are talking here about people who are prepared to take crankiness about food to borderline-insane levels. Do they drink? Have a guess. Do they smoke? Well, exactly. Are they overwhelmingly middle class, well-educated, prosperous people whom fortune, genes and environment have already favoured extravagantly with massively better prospects for health and longevity than your average joe? You bet. It is bonkers, I think, to regard this sort of behaviour as some kind of aspirational goal for ordinary mortals. It might be good headlines and good for grabbing viewers to the not-very-scrupulous-or-rigorous ‘Horizon,’ but it’s fatuous nonsense, in my view.
I saw the programme and thought it was very interesting, for reasons other than the mouse/brain cell theory. And yes, we in this house are doing the 5/2 days eating/fasting. And no, people on the experiment didn’t overeat on the eating days.
I agree with lapreguiceria - criticisms of the MSS are totally unfounded. It is a member-led organisation, carrying out the wishes of the membership. Dom, instead of cynically using the Society’s resources ie the website, why not volunteer, get involved, learn a bit more about how the society works, and influence the path it is taking? It is all there for you to avail yourself of. Even better, come back and tell us what you’ve found out, and what you’re doing to help.
In response to the comments made by alison100. Before I watched this program I must admit I too had a similar attitude to the idea of fasting and without wanting to admit it probably a preconceived idea of the type of person who is likely to undertake this on a regular basis (health freaks!) and had I not seen it I would probably have dismissed the idea completely had it been suggested to me. However, I did watch the program and science (hopefully good science and all BBC2 style) for me has a very loud voice and is difficult to dismiss. This is why I personally have decided to jump in and give it a go and no I wouldn’t describe myself as a health freak. I’m an ex smoker and now ex drinker (due to the fact that I inject with Avonex once a week). If anything has made me take notice of my health, it was my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and my willingness to pay attention to ideas from people/scientists, which certainly has nothing to do with my background, who might just know better than me how to improve my health.
It strikes me that 600 calories a day is not much of a fast and the routine is unlikely to do any harm, so why not try and see if it makes you feel better. If you don’t feel any benefit then just revert back to an eating plan that suits you.
I strongly doubt it will do anything for MS, but might help improve general health, which can’t be a bad thing.
Hello whammel! Yes I agree. I have been finding it really easy to follow. In fact the next day after a ‘fast’ day (more like 400 calories for woman) I don’t actually feel hungry and have to force myself to eat some breakfast! The documentary highligted the fact that through fasting the body goes into repair mode and we could all do with some of that I think. Hope you get a chance to see the Horizon documentary, as it is difficult to relate everything that was said on the forum. I can only recommend it.
I must agree I thought the programme was great with a very good theory that was logically explained.
Horizon to me is my Bible ever since 1982 when it showed ‘The Secret of the Snake;’ for me a life changer.
How this impinges on MS is very debateable and no way should the society spend hard raised funds on some far out theory.
I don’t recall any mention in the programme on it perhaps being beneficial for neurological conditions? So diet; yes most definitely; cure for MS you must be joking.