How a Plant Based Diet Benefits Multiple Sclerosis
Some people are skeptical about how much impact diet has on multiple sclerosis, yet at the same time there’s quite a bit of interest in the topic, especially since making dietary changes is a drug-free way to help manage the disease. Therefore it’s important to consider recently published research showing how a plant based diet benefits multiple sclerosis.
A plant based diet for MS
The investigators of the new study conducted a randomized, controlled trial that explored the impact of a very-low-fat, plant based diet on disease activity and progression in individuals with relapsing-remitting MS. The one-year study involved 32 individuals who were assigned to the diet (and who received 10-day residential diet training in the McDougall program plus support during the study) and 29 who were wait-listed for the intervention.
The diet consisted of starchy plant foods, such as beans, corn, whole-grain breads and pastas, rice, and potatoes, along with non-starchy vegetables and fruits, and no animal-based foods (e.g., no meat, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy). About three-quarters (76%) of calories were derived from carbs, 14 percent from protein, and 10 percent from fats.
At the end of the year, here’s what the authors found:
- Participants in the plant-based diet group maintained a fat intake of about 15 percent versus about 40 percent among controls
- At six months, individuals in the diet group showed improvements in bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL), total cholesterol, insulin, body mass index, weight loss, and fatigue
- Both groups showed similar findings on MRI outcomes (number of T2 brain lesions), number of relapses, and disability
Concerning the MRI outcomes, the authors noted that “the study was powered to detect only very large effects on MRI activity so smaller but clinically meaningful effects cannot be excluded.” They also explained that if individuals continued to follow such a plant-based diet, the improvements seen in cholesterol and body mass index “could yield long-term vascular health benefits.”
Another low-fat, plant-based diet for MS
A somewhat similar dietary approach for multiple sclerosis was developed by Roy Swank, MD, founder of the Low Fat Diet treatment for MS. The former head of the Division of Neurology of the University of Oregon Medical School dedicated much of his life to examining the impact of diet on MS.
The Swank dietary approach is very low in fat, focuses on vegetables and other plant foods, but does include some animal protein from eggs, fish, and white meat of chicken and turkey. More details about this way of eating can be found at the Swank MS Foundation.
Swank MS Foundation
Yadav V et al. Low-fat, plant-based diet in multiple sclerosis: A randomized controlled trial. Multiple Sclerosis & Related Disorders 2016 Sep; 9:80-90
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