The view from OMS: three-year STOP-MS study results

June 7, 2018

Dr Jonathan White 1200x1200Fresh from the Neuroepidemiology Unit at the University of Melbourne, the research hub for all things OMS, there is more reason to be a happy and grateful OMSer today.

The follow-up data from a sample of those people attending one of our five-day residential retreats in Victoria, Australia, has shown significantly improved mental and physical health outcomes, fewer relapses and stabilization of their disability three years later.

There was on average an 8-9% improvement in physical and mental health scores, so people were telling us that they felt on average almost 10% better than when they came to the retreat. Remember that MS is associated with progressive decline over time, not improvement!

One of the most exciting and impressive results to come out of the statistics was in terms of relapse rate. While 70% of participants had experienced a relapse in the year before the retreat, in the year after the retreat, only 16% had a relapse!

At the three-year mark, this had increased to 26% but was still significantly lower than the baseline (both statistically and clinically). This is a really important observation, and should fuel the fire of research into the role of lifestyle modification in managing MS.

In terms of disability, although not statistically significant, there was actually a decrease in disability score in the sample group. So for the group, their disability didn’t get any worse, and in fact, their progression stabilized. This is a key concern for people with MS.

So overall, people were changing their lifestyle behavior, maintaining it over a medium to long period of time and their health improved in parallel!

I fully recognize that the skeptics will cite the usual arguments about these results;

  • that there was no control group to prove that the results wouldn’t have happened anyway in a group with MS over three years without doing anything (but really, how often does that actually happen by chance to a large group of people with MS? We all know the natural history of MS is progressive decline)
  • these highly motivated and educated people with MS are not representative of the “average pwMS”

Whilst technically correct, these criticisms must be viewed in the appropriate context. It is a perennial problem in lifestyle modification studies to have a control or placebo group – it’s very difficult to have a placebo version of a diet, “fake” exercise or “dummy” meditation. It is of course possible to give people a placebo version of vitamin D and flaxseed oil, if ethically approved.

The issue of motivation is a really interesting one. We already know that OMSers are not typical of the average pwMS, and we shouldn’t be apologetic for that. We have the drive and determination to do “whatever it takes” to fight this disease, and that is one of the great strengths of our worldwide community.

Studies have repeatedly shown that this type of person will do better in a range of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, not just MS. It seems that having the belief that you can heal and recover can alter your immune chemistry and help you achieve exactly that. It’s one of the reasons why we focus so much on meditation and mind-body medicine within OMS.

The fact that most of the people attending the retreat will likely have done so because they had active disease and/or had already changed their lifestyle and wanted more information or support to do even better, actually makes the results all the more impressive.

If your baseline measurement is already artificially high, and the disease quite active, then surely any improvements achieved are even more impressive and significant?! This is exactly what was found in this study.

I hope this reinforces your belief in the OMS program, and for those of you considering attending a retreat, maybe now your mind has been made up?

Dr Jonathan White

More on these results:

Lead Researcher Dr Claudia Marck’s view on 3 year STOP-MS results

Full paper:

Marck CH, De Livera AM, Brown CR, Neate SL, Taylor KL, Weiland TJ, et al. (2018) Health outcomes and adherence to a healthy lifestyle after a multimodal intervention in people with multiple sclerosis: Three year follow-up. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0197759.

More Research from the NEU:


8 thoughts on ‘The view from OMS: three-year STOP-MS study results

  1. I was very lucky met George Jelinek in 1999 a year after I was diagnosed in Perth WA
    I was fit and healthy used to paddle in the Avon Descent 134kms of white water
    Like healthy food
    And the out door way of life
    Read OMS
    Felt better with in weeks
    And have stuck to the life style
    Every since
    It will be my 20th MS anniversary on August 19th 2018
    Had to give up part time work in 2016 after my 1st relapse
    Still walking with 2 Nordic Walking sticks
    But moved back to UK in 2006
    OMS A great way of life
    Will always be indeuted to George

    • Hi Danny,

      Anyone can attend our retreats although they do book up very quickly. The UK and Australian retreats for this year are fully booked but we hope to announce the calendar for next year shortly.Our Australian retreats are run through the Gawler Foundation so we would recommend keeping an eye on their website as well as ours. This is the link to their website: Best wishes, OMS team

  2. Here I see an amazing correlation: relapses ratio decrease from 70% to 16% gives virtually the same number as the one reported by Dr. Swank for his patients many years ago! The number of relapses per patient was decreased one year before and one year after the start of his study from 1.3 to 0.3!

  3. I’m just returned from the 2018 Ammerdown Retreat. It was a hugely informative event, and highly inspiring. Obviously it’s too early for me to establish any improvement but I am even more committed to OMS having the theoretical principles backed up by meeting many real people who have improved beyond any realistic expectation. So many OMSers are exceeding what a conventional medicine-only approach would have provided for treatment aganst an incurable, degenerative disease, that is notable for it’s likelihood to worsen and be life-limiting. Highly recommended!

    • Hi Ian, we are glad to hear that you gained so much from attending the retreat. We wish you all the very best with following the program. Kind regards, OMS team

  4. I attended a retreat at Gawler in 2006 soon after being diagnosed with primary progressive MS.
    I have followed the OMS program ever since.
    12 years on I have had only 1 relapse which was only apparent on a MRI. ( I have not noticed any symptoms)
    I remain fit and well but my walking agility has declined recently ( I have spinal damage after an accident so I can’t be sure if this is the real cause or MS)
    Thanks George and the OMS team. I take great pleasure in reading about this recent study and the continuing success of so many in our MS family.

    • Hi Megan, that’s brilliant news – congratulations! Would you perhaps be interested in sharing your story on our blog? Best wishes, Laura, OMS Web Editor

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