Bring up the topic of complementary and alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis and you just might start a controversy. However, what’s so controversial about maintaining a low-fat diet? Sounds like a good dietary recommendation to me.
One approach to managing MS is through the use of diet, in addition to, or in place of traditional treatments. So why aren’t we all on a strict regimen and measuring our dietary intake against a widely publicized recommendation?
A simple reason may be that there is more than one “MS Diet.” Another reason may be that there is little clinical research into the the impact of diet on MS progression and symptoms. But soon that will change.
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) are launching a first-of-its-kind research study aimed at determining whether a low fat diet is beneficial to patients with multiple sclerosis. In addition to tracking each patient's MS symptoms and examinations by a neurologist, researchers will try to determine the physical impacts of a low fat diet on the brain through the use of MRI.
“Low fat diets are popular among MS patients who believe they are beneficial,” explained Vijayshree Yadav, M.D. “However, there is little research on hand which demonstrates whether this is true and how exactly diet impacts the symptoms of MS. Through this study, we hope to quantify the impacts of diet on MS.”
The research project (see the clinical trial listing) is currently recruiting 54 multiple sclerosis patients. Half of these patients will take part in a 10-day intensive dietary training program in Santa Rosa, California where they will learn about preparing low fat foods prescribed within the specialized diet. They will then follow the diet guidelines for the following 12 months as their progress is measured. The other half of the study patients will be observed as a control group and then enrolled in the same dietary training program at the conclusion of the study.
The diet being studied is called the McDougall Diet which is a whole food vegetarian diet with no added oil, eggs, or dairy products. It features starches such as potatoes, corn, rice, beans, pastas, breads, fruits and vegetables. Meat and fish are not included. Sample meals would include oatmeal and hash brown potatoes for breakfast, soups and sandwiches for lunch, and spaghetti, bean burritos, chili, or oriental rice for dinner.
In the article "Treating Multiple Sclerosis with Diet: Fact or Fraud?" Dr. McDougall concludes, “I've been very gratified by the results of this dietary treatment, not only because the progress of most of my MS patients' disease has been halted, but also because their overall health has unquestionably improved. And everyone knows that MS sufferers need every bit of help they can get.” Read more about Dr. John A. McDougall.