Intermittent Fasting Confers Protection in CNS Autoimmunity by Altering the Gut Microbiota.

Cell metabolism. 2018;27(6):1222-1235.e6
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Calorie restriction (CR) has potent anti-inflammatory effects and has shown beneficial effects in an animal model for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Intermittent Fasting (IF) has similar effects as CR and may be more acceptable long term than CR. This paper reports results from both an animal study and a pilot randomised controlled human clinical trial on IF and MS. The animal study showed that IF had beneficial effects on the MS animal model and that these effects were at least in part mediated by changes in the gut microbiome. 16 patients with relapsing remitting MS were enrolled during a relapse and randomised to either IF (6-7 fasting days during the two-week study) or normal eating. Changes in immune inflammatory parameters and gut flora were seen in the IF group which were similar to the beneficial changes in the animal model. The authors conclude that larger clinical studies to test IF and microbiome manipulation as a potential treatment in MS are warranted.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is more common in western countries with diet being a potential contributing factor. Here we show that intermittent fasting (IF) ameliorated clinical course and pathology of the MS model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). IF led to increased gut bacteria richness, enrichment of the Lactobacillaceae, Bacteroidaceae, and Prevotellaceae families and enhanced antioxidative microbial metabolic pathways. IF altered T cells in the gut with a reduction of IL-17 producing T cells and an increase in regulatory T cells. Fecal microbiome transplantation from mice on IF ameliorated EAE in immunized recipient mice on a normal diet, suggesting that IF effects are at least partially mediated by the gut flora. In a pilot clinical trial in MS patients, intermittent energy restriction altered blood adipokines and the gut flora resembling protective changes observed in mice. In conclusion, IF has potent immunomodulatory effects that are at least partially mediated by the gut microbiome.

Lifestyle medicine

Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Fasting
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood ; Stool

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 2
Allocation concealment : Not applicable


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Intermittent Fasting ; Multiple Sclerosis ; Microbiome