Background: In persons with multiple sclerosis (MS), the effect of nutrition on exercise performance and fatigue remains unknown. The objective was to determine whether a 3-day diet high in triglycerides (FAT) compared with a 3-day diet high in carbohydrates (CARB) would improve fatigue and exercise performance in persons with MS.
Methods: A randomized controlled crossover design was incorporated to study FAT versus CARB on submaximal cycling endurance (60% of peak oxygen consumption), substrate utilization, and fatigue in 12 persons with mild-to-moderate MS (Expanded Disability Status Scale score, 2.0–5.0) and 12 age- and sex-matched controls.
Results: There were no differences in cycling time between diets in either group (P = .29). The MS group had no changes in fatigue between diets (P = .64); the control group demonstrated increased total mental fatigue after FAT (P = .05). The control group increased carbohydrate oxidation by 24% at rest and 13% during exercise after CARB. Similarly, the control group significantly increased fat oxidation after FAT by 22% at rest and 68% during exercise (P = .01). These changes were not seen in the MS group. Compared with controls, persons with MS oxidized approximately 50% less fat during exercise after FAT (P = .05).
Conclusions: Neither CARB nor FAT altered submaximal exercise performance or baseline fatigue in the MS group. The results suggest that persons with MS are unable to adapt to dietary changes and oxidize fatty acids as efficiently as controls.