Dairy and MS

OMS strongly advises that people with MS avoid dairy because research shows a high correlation between MS and dairy milk, specifically because of particular proteins in cow’s milk. Here are three pieces of evidence:1,2

  1. Some of the proteins in cow’s milk are targeted by the immune cells of people with MS. These include butyrophilin and bovine serum albumin (BSA).
  2. Injecting those same cow’s milk proteins into test animals caused lesions to appear in their central nervous systems.3,4
  3. Some proteins in cow’s milk mimic part of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), the part of myelin thought to initiate the autoimmune reaction in MS.5 This can trick the immune system into initiating an attack on MOG and hence cause demyelination.

In terms of general health, a research study involving more than 135,000 men and women in the U.S. linked cow’s milk to the degenerative neurological disorder Parkinson’s Disease.6 Researchers speculate that dairy products may have a generally toxic effect on nervous tissue.

Lactose intolerance is common in many populations around the world (most notably Mediterranean, Asian, and African). Lactose-intolerant people experience a variety of ill effects from milk, including bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.

In their best-selling book The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health, Drs. Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell argue that the best diet for overall human health is a plant-based diet of whole foods.7

For people with MS, the book is interesting reading, as it links animal fat and protein, especially cow’s milk, with MS and a range of other Western diseases. Given the high potential risks for people with MS of consuming dairy products, despite a lack of conclusive evidence, OMS recommends avoiding cow’s milk products as part of the OMS Recovery Program.

Alternatives to dairy are widely available in a range of substitutes for milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and even butter. These are made from such foods as nuts, hemp, rice, oats, flax, and soy. While soy products offer the highest protein and are better for baking, some people think almond or rice milk taste better on cereal.

1. Malosse D, Perron H, Sasco A, et al. Correlation between milk and dairy product consumption and multiple sclerosis prevalence: a worldwide study. Neuroepidemiology 1992; 11:304-312
2. Malosse D, Perron H. Correlation analysis between bovine populations, other farm animals, house pets, and multiple sclerosis prevalence. Neuroepidemiology 1993; 12:15-27
3. Winer S, Astsaturov I, Cheung RK, et al. T cells of multiple sclerosis patients target a common environmental peptide that causes encephalitis in mice. J Immunol 2001; 166:4751-4756
Stefferl A, Schubart A, Storch M, et al. Butyrophilin, a milk protein, modulates the encephalitogenic T cell response to myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. J Immunol 2000; 165:2859-2865
5. Mana P, Goodyear M, Bernard C, et al. Tolerance induction by molecular mimicry: prevention and suppression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis with the milk protein butyrophilin. Int Immunol 2004; 16:489-499
6. Chen H, Zhang SM, Hernan MA, et al. Diet and Parkinson’s disease: a potential role of dairy products in men. Ann Neurol 2002; 52:793-801
Campbell TC, Campbell TM. The China Study. New York: Benbella Books, 2006