Back in 2010, Professor Jelinek's research team published its first paper outlining the benefits of attending an OMS retreat at the Gawler Foundation at one and 2.5 years after a retreat.
Findings of OMS research
We showed that people attending the retreats at the one year mark were 13% better mentally, and 15% better physically, and at the 2.5 year time point, 15% better mentally and 17% better physically.
Subsequently, we published further results in the journal Neurological Sciences showing that at five years the benefit just continued to grow, with highly significant improvements in mental health of about 23%, physical health 18%, and quality of life 20%.
These were amazing results. No other five year follow up study of a single intervention in MS has ever shown such a sustained benefit.
The team then moved on to investigate the pillars of the OMS Recovery Program, in a large international study of around 2,500 people (the HOLISM study).
Flaxseed and relapses
Publishing in the major neurology journals, we showed that people consuming fish more frequently and taking omega 3 supplements had dramatically better quality of life, less disability and fewer relapses.
Importantly, we showed those taking flaxseed oil had over 60% fewer relapses than those not taking it, a much greater benefit than for those taking fish oil.
The next paper in the series looked at cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, and confirmed the harms for PwMS who smoke; interestingly, it showed that those consuming moderate amounts of alcohol had the best outcomes, better than those not consuming alcohol, and those drinking heavily.
Diet in detail
The team then looked at diet in detail. These results were dramatic, confirming the findings of Swank, that healthy fat consumption was the most important predictor of good health for the PwMS in the sample, followed by healthy fruit and vegetable intake.
Interestingly, the same week those results were published, MS Research Australia noted its own funded research had shown basically the same thing about dietary fats.
Our most recent paper, published in the prestigious neurology journal BMC Neurology, showed that those people in the sample exercising frequently had dramatically better quality of life than those not exercising much, regardless of level of disability.
Overall, the OMS research team now has a substantial two-pronged weight of evidence showing the continuing benefits of attending an OMS retreat, with strong evidence validating the components of the program, diet and exercise.
More papers will follow from the HOLISM study, examining the lifestyle factors that contribute to depression and fatigue, and further researching the various remaining components of the OMS Recovery Program, including meditation and vitamin D. This research should provide great confidence for those on the OMS Program.
The findings are very strong, and the study methodology very sound. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that not a single facet of the OMS Program has been contradicted by the evidence we have found. Doctors managing PwMS really do need to rigorously address lifestyle factors to achieve the best results.