Over 60 years ago Dr. Roy Swank discovered that a low-fat diet, very low in saturated fats and polyunsaturated oils, helps MS patients live healthy and productive lives. Also low in red and other fatty meats, high in grains, fruits and vegetables, it is simple to follow and in many cases alleviates chronic symptoms. Some of his very first patients are still ambulatory and leading independent lives thanks to following Dr. Swank’s regimen for the last half-century.
For people who have not studied the Swank diet in detail I would like give them some background information on it, much of what is below is from Dr McDougall
Dr. Swank began studying the correlation between diet and MS in the late 1940’s. His book, The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, has achieved wide acclaim from both within and outside the medical community.Roy Swank, M.D., former head of University of Oregon’s neurology department observed that MS patients improved on a low-fat diet. In the 1950s, Swank began treating his own patients with such a diet. He got excellent results, so for the next 35 years he treated thousands of MS patients in this way. By any medical standard, his results have been remarkable: patients’ conditions improved by as much as 95 percent. Patients fared better if they had detected the disease early and had had few attacks, but even long-time MS sufferers experienced a slowdown of the disease’s progression. Originally Swank was most concerned with limiting saturated fat, but over the years he has become more attuned to the dangers of all kinds of fat. His MS diet is now about 20 percent fat by calories.
Swank’s results are unchallenged by other studies. But instead of advocating a low-fat vegetarian diet for MS patients, many doctors either ignore Swank’s work or dismiss it because they think the diet would be too difficult to follow.
Three important findings emerged from Swank’s research:
The earlier an MS patient adopted a low-fat diet, the better the chance of avoiding deterioration and death from the disease.
Patients who limited their saturated fat intake to less than 20 grams a day no longer showed the expected deterioration from the disease. (Most Americans eat 125 grams or more each day.)
Among patients whose saturated fat intake was 17 grams or less daily, the death rate over a 35-year-period was 31 percent—close to normal. The death rate was 21 percent for the patients who kept to that low level of fat consumption and who started the diet within three years of diagnosis of the disease. On the other hand, patients consuming more than 25 grams of saturated fat daily had a death rate of 79 percent over the period of the study; nearly half of those deaths were directly due to MS.
The 8-gram difference in daily intake of saturated fat (which triples the death rate for victims of MS) can mean as little as:
1 oz. pork sausage (10 grams)
1 medium-fat hamburger (14 grams)
3 oz. porterhouse steak (14 grams)
1 oz. cheddar cheese (9 grams)
2 tsp. butter (8 grams)
1 cup whole milk (8 grams)
The findings are clear. The best chance to arrest MS, the diet must be as low in saturated fat as possible, approximately 6% of total calories. That translates into a low-fat vegetarian diet: one of starches, vegetables, and fruits—delicious foods containing only 5 to 10 % total fat. If you skip meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut or palm kernel oil, you eat virtually no saturated fat.
This Swank diet has been promoted and endorsed (and improved) by Dr McDougall for 20 years + and Dr McDougall has now funded a clinical trial so as his mentor Dr Swank diet will get the credit for his pioneering work.
Most people that have looked closely at the Swank diet agree that the data is there to support it and if this trial comes in with a positive finding in support the Swank / McDougall diet, which all indications so far are that it will back up Dr Swanks original findings. When you think about it Dr McDougall is an expert on the Swank diet and he has put his money behind this independent study into something that he has spent a long time researching, he has had many patients who have MS and used his version of the Swank diet to treat them with good results so it will not be a surprise to anybody who has followed the Swank diet debate to find that results back up Dr Swanks research.
A source close to the study hopes the results could be published by Jan/ Feb 2014
Official Title: A Randomized, Controlled Study of Diet and Multiple Sclerosis
Further study details as provided by Oregon Health and Science University:
Primary Outcome Measures:
Number of new MS T2 lesion formation on brain MRI in those randomized to the low fat study diet with that of subjects randomized to follow their regular diet. [ Time Frame: Baseline. Month 12. ] Designated as safety issue: No
Secondary Outcome Measures:
To assess effects of the low fat study diet on clinical activity of MS as by relapse rate and disability progression and on fatigue, depression and quality of life. [ Time Frame: Baseline. Month 3. Month 6. Month 9. Month 12. ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]
To study the effects of the Low Fat Study Diet on serum markers of inflammation [ Time Frame: Baseline. Month 6. Month 12. ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]
To assess safety and tolerability of the low fat study diet upon 12 months of administration [ Time Frame: Baseline. Month 3. Month 6. Month 9. Month 12. ] [ Designated as safety issue: Yes ]
Estimated Enrollment: 61
Study Start Date: February 2009
Estimated Study Completion Date: March 2013
Estimated Primary Completion Date: March 2013 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: 1. Low fat study diet
The low fat study diet arm will receive low fat diet training and followed for 12 months on the diet.
Other: Low fat study diet
The low fat study diet is a very low-saturated-fat, plant food based diet. It will be approximately 10% fat, 14% protein and 76% carbohydrate. The diet is is starched based and also contains fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and there is no animal meat used, including no use of fish. This diet is very low in saturated fats and enriched in unsaturated fats. Subjects do not take dietary supplements.
No Intervention: 2. Regular diet group
The regular diet arm will be a wait-listed group that will receive no training in diet and will be advised to continue their regular (usual) diet as was prior to entry into the study, for the duration of the study. They will have a similar clinic follow up schedule as the treatment group. The regular diet group will be given identical instructions to exercise regularly similar to the treatment group.
This research project has significance for its potential to develop a new therapeutic approach to MS. Current treatments in MS
Roy Swank, MD: Multiple Sclerosis Pioneer – Plus a
Conversation with Dr. McDougall
Roy Swank, MD: Multiple Sclerosis Cure (the 5th Estate
This show aired on May 16, 1989