A Dietary Cause of MS?

 The most definitive publication on this subject is the book The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book by Dr. Roy Swank and Barbara Dugan.  Until his retirement as head of the Department of Neurology at the University of Oregon, Dr. Swank spent his entire professional career establishing a direct connection between a high fat diet and MS.  He monitored two thousand patients for up to twenty-nine years and concluded that the great majority of patients can expect to remain free of disability if a low fat diet is initiated before the disability has developed.  If the diet is started early, there is marked reduction in the frequency of exacerbations and a slowing of deterioration.  The oldest of Swank's patients has been on a low saturated fat diet for 50 years and celebrated her 94th birthday.


Dr. Swank became aware of a connection between a high fat diet and MS when he came across studies in Europe dating back to1918 that confirmed a higher incidence of MS in the beer-butter culture of northern Europe, as compared to the wine-oil culture of the southern Mediterranean region.  Many other studies have shown the same correlation.  A thirteen-year study in Norway found four times as many cases of MS in the inland farming areas with a traditional high fat diet, as compared the coastal fishing areas.  During World War II the incidence of multiple sclerosis dropped significantly where meat and fat consumption had decreased.  To determine what could be the mechanism that connects saturated fat with MS, Dr. Swank concentrated on the physical changes that take place in the blood of MS patients in relation to their intake of fat.  Human and animal studies by him and others, identified six observable changes after a high fat meal. They are:

  1. The availability of oxygen is decreased.
  2. There is a clumping of blood cells.
  3. The viscosity of the blood is increased.
  4. There are chemical changes in the composition of the blood.
  5. The passing of clumped blood cells abrade the walls of small capillaries. 

The bibliography in his book list one hundred and thirty-six research studies done here and abroad that supports his thesis.  For years the medical community did not accept Dr. Swank's conclusions.  At the beginning of Dr. Swank's thirty-five years of research, he found that at 20 grams a day new patients had little or no deterioration. but by the end of his research he was getting better results with 15 grams a day.  However, the clinical study reported by the American Academy of Neurology at their 2003 annual meeting, reported that the intake of saturated fat for patients with advanced MS could not be more than 5 grams a day to have a significant decrease in the number of attacks.  


                                                      A Dramatic Recovery From MS


Roger Macdougall’s Diet
One of the most dramatic examples of a diet reversing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis is the story of Roger Macdougall.  He graduated from the University of Glasgow and pursued a career in theatre arts becoming a composer, lyricist, playwright, and film writer.  He immigrated to the United States and wrote the screen plays for 26 movies including The Mouse That Roared starring Peter Sellers, and The Man in the White Suit starring Alec Guinness, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.  When he was forty-three years of age he was diagnosed with MS.  Within a few years his legs, fingers, eyesight, and voice were affected.  Because he could no longer stand erect, he was confined to a wheelchair.

After suffering five years as a helpless invalid, he decided to not just sit and wait for the inevitable.  He left his specialist who was recognized as one of the world's leading neurologists at one of the most celebrated neurological centers, because he felt his treatment lacked direction of any discernible chance of success.  In considering a different approach, he decided to change his diet to those foods consumed by man at the very beginning of mankind before man settled down in agricultural communities raising livestock.  His logic was, our bodies have evolved from eating the basic foods available at that time.  Therefore, his rigid diet consisted of avoiding all highly saturated fats such as beef, pork, ham, lamb, bacon and dairy products.  He reduced the sugar in his diet and avoided foods high in gluten because of a problem with allergies.  It was four years before he noticed the first significant sign of improvement.  His body now started to make slow, but nonetheless steady progress.  Twenty-two years later he had absolutely no symptoms of MS.  Every reflex, every muscle, every movement was completely normal and his eyesight was restored.  Mr. MacDougall died about fifteen years ago at eighty years age.  It was his belief that this diet allowed his immune system to successfully fight the debilitating symptoms of MS.  His exact diet and complete story of his recovery can be found on Google.  Search Roger Macdougall.