For many years, researchers have largely ignored the highly significant work of Professor Roy Swank and others in detailing the effects of a low saturated fat diet on MS disease progression. In the era of an explosion of medications to reduce the risk of relapses in MS, with marginal if any effect on disability, the clear research agenda of funding bodies appears to have been more and better medications.
The OMS view for 15 years has been that this does little about the disease process; in contrast, we have continued to recommend a mainstream preventive medicine approach with modification of lifestyle risk factors shown to worsen progression of the disease, the most important of these being a typical Western high saturated fat diet.
Over those 15 years, there has only been intermittent interest in the dietary influences on MS progression, with good work from Weinstock-Guttman in Buffalo, but little else of note.
MS Research Australia has finally turned its attention to this important area, and now, published online early in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, a new paper from the Southern Tasmanian Longitudinal Study has confirmed the importance of the OMS approach.
Studying 141 people with MS over 2.5 years, a research team from the Menzies Research Institute led by Dr Ingrid van der Mei has confirmed the critical importance of the ratio of good to bad fats in the blood in influencing MS disease progression.
People with a bad fat profile, generally associated with high animal fat consumption, had considerably more disease progression over the 2.5 years than those with a healthier lipid profile usually associated with consumption of more unsaturated fat-containing foods like the OMS diet.
Lead investigator Dr van der Mei was quoted by MSRA as saying: "Our new findings confirm that dietary measures to control fats in the blood is also another important measure Australians living with MS should act upon."
While we agree that people with MS everywhere should act and change their diets in line with OMS recommendations, we believe that there was already strong enough evidence to warrant that recommendation before this study was published.
Our own HOLISM paper, examining nearly 20 times more people with MS from 57 different countries, published in Nutritional Neuroscience in March 2014, found that those people with the healthiest fat intake had dramatically less disability than those consuming more unhealthy fats.
Of course, Swank's work, the strongest evidence of all, has been in the literature now for decades. This research is better late than never. Hopefully, more doctors treating people with MS will now be convinced about the evidence for a dietary approach to MS management, as part of an overall whole-of-lifestyle approach such as OMS has been advocating for 15 years.