Multiple sclerosis is a mysterious and debilitating disease that has puzzled health professionals for decades. The prevailing view among doctors and dietitians has been that diet has nothing to do with the cause or cure of the disease. However, the evidence that has been published to date suggests otherwise. In fact, a sensible diet has been shown to provide significant benefits for victims of this devastating condition.
The incidence of multiple sclerosis crosses all racial barriers and geographical boundaries. However, the disease is much more common in wealthy countries like Canada, the United States, and Northern Europe, than it is in Japan, elsewhere in Asia, or in Africa. When people migrate from a country of low incidence of multiple sclerosis to a country of high incidence, their chance of getting the disease increases as they adopt new ways of living and eating.
The strongest contacts we have with our environment are the foods we eat each day. Countries with high rates of multiple sclerosis also tend to have diets filled with rich foods that contain many different substances that may be related to diseases that trouble us. However, animal fats, especially those from dairy products, have been most closely linked to the development of multiple sclerosis. One important theory proposes that cow’s milk consumed in infancy lays the foundation for injuries to the nervous system that appear later in life.
The factors that can precipitate the attacks of multiple sclerosis in mid-life are suspected to be viruses, allergic reactions, and disturbances of the flow of blood to the brain. Most likely, whatever factor may be involved, there is a close tie to the circulatory system, because the areas of injury sustained by the nerve cells surround blood vessels. One theory holds that the primary injury to a person with multiple sclerosis is caused by a decrease in the supply of blood to tissues in certain parts of the brain. Dietary fats in the amounts consumed by Americans can and do cause a decrease in flow of blood to many kinds of tissues, including those in the brain.
The course of this disease usually leads to a progressive decline in the patient, reducing him to existence in a wheelchair or worse. However, a low-fat diet has been shown to reduce the frequency of attacks. Dr. Roy Swank, former head of the University of Oregon’s Department of Neurology, has been treating his patients with a low-fat diet for more than thirty-five years. His results are unchallenged by other studies and unmatched in effectiveness by any other treatment for this crippling disease. According to his landmark research published in the Archives of Neurology, if this disease is detected early, and if attacks have been few and the patient adopts a low-fat diet, then he has a 95% chance of remaining in the same condition or even for improvement over the next 20 years.
The healthiest diet is based on low-fat vegetable foods. Every incremental increase in intake of saturated fats (that is, animal fat) is associated with a corresponding increase in frequency of attacks. To arrest the disease, the diet must contain as little fat as possible, or approximately 7% fat. Those on a low-fat diet lived almost 3 times as long and generally improved their level of function. On a high-fat diet, the average patient went from active to wheel-chair and bed-ridden (or dead) over the three and a half decades of study.
In conclusion, a sensible low-fat diet can provide significant benefits for victims of multiple sclerosis. This treatment has been shown to halt the progress of the disease in most cases and improve the overall health of patients. The evidence is clear that the foods we eat each day play a critical role in the development and progression of this debilitating disease. As such, patients suffering from multiple sclerosis should consider adopting a low-fat vegetable-based diet to help manage their condition and improve their quality of life.