Multiple Sclerosis

This is an extract from Professor T. Colin Campbell’s book “The China Study”. I urge you to obtain a copy and read it from cover to cover. It may save you from a life of chronic debilitating disease. If nothing else, please click on the book icon shown and read the Introduction to the book printed in full (about 7 paperback sized pages) as it will give you the confidence in him as a world renowned researcher into diet and its effect on health.

“Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a particularly difficult autoimmune disease, both for those who have it and for those who care for its victims. It is a lifelong battle involving a variety of unpredictable and serious disabilities. MS patients often pass through episodes of acute attacks while gradually losing their ability to walk or to see. After ten to fifteen years, they often are confined to a wheelchair, and then to a bed for the rest of their lives …
The initial research showing an effect of diet on MS goes back more than half a century to the research of Dr Roy Swank, who began his work in Norway and at the Montreal Neurological Institute during the 1940s. Later, Dr Swank headed the Division of Neurology at the University of Oregon Medical School. Dr Swank became interested in the dietary connection when he learned that MS appeared to be more common in the northern climates. There is a huge difference in MS prevalence as one moves away from the equator: MS is over 100 times more prevalent in the far north than at the equator, and seven times more prevalent in south Australia (closer to the South Pole) than in north Australia. This distribution is very similar to the distribution of other autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Although some scientists speculated that magnetic fields might be responsible for the disease, Dr Swank thought it was diet, especially animal-based foods high in saturated fats. He found that inland dairy-consuming areas of Norway had higher rates of MS than coastal fish-consuming areas.
Dr Swank conducted his best-known trial on 144 MS patients recruited from the Montreal Neurological Institute. He kept records on these patients for the next thirty-four years. He advised his patients to consume a diet low in saturated fat, most of whom did, but many of whom did not. He then classified them as good dieters or poor dieters, based on whether they consumed less than 20 g/day or more than 20 g/day of saturated fat. (For comparison, a bacon cheeseburger with condiments has about sixteen grams of saturated fat. One small frozen chicken pot pie has almost ten grams of saturated fat.) As the study continued, Dr Swank found that progression of disease was greatly reduced by the low-saturated fat diet, which worked even for people with initially advanced conditions. He summarized his work in 1990, concluding that for the sub-group of patients who began the low-saturated fat diet during the earlier stages of their disease, “about 95% … remained only mildly disabled for approximately thirty years.” Only 5% of these patients died. In contrast, 80% of the patients with early-stage MS who consumed the “poor” diet (higher saturated fat) died of MS … To follow people for thirty-four years is an exceptional demonstration of perseverance and dedication. Moreover, if this were a study testing a potential drug, these findings would make any pharmaceutical manufacturer jingle the coins in his or her pocket. Swank’s first results were published more than a half century ago, then again and again and again for the next forty years. More recently, additional studies have confirmed and extended Swank’s observations and gradually have begun to place more emphasis on cow’s milk. These new studies show that consuming cow’s milk is strongly linked to MS both when comparing different countries and when comparing states within the U.S …. This relationship, which is virtually identical to that for Type 1 diabetes, is remarkable, and it is not due to variables such as the availability of medical services or geographic latitude. In some studies researchers suggest this strong correlation with fresh cow’s milk might be due to the presence of a virus in the milk. These more recent studies also suggest that saturated fat alone probably was not fully responsible for Swank’s results. The consumption of meat high in saturated fat, like milk, was also associated with MS in these multi-country studies, while the consumption of fish, containing more omega-3 fat, was associated with low rates of disease … The association of cow’s milk with MS …. may be impressive, but it does not constitute proof. For example, where do genes and viruses come into play? ….. With regard to genes, we can begin to puzzle out their association with MS by asking the usual question: what happens to people who migrate from one population to another, keeping their genes the same but changing their diets and their environment? The answer is the same as it was for cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. People acquire the risk of the population to which they move, especially if they move before their adolescent years. This tells us that this disease is more strongly related to environmental factors than it is to genes. Specific genes have been identified as possible candidates for causing MS but, according to a recent report, there may be as many as twenty-five genes playing such a role. Therefore, it will undoubtedly be a long time before we determine with any precision which genes or combinations of genes predispose someone to MS. Genetic predisposition may make a difference as to who gets MS, but even at best, genes can only account for about one-fourth of the total disease risk. Although MS and Type 1 diabetes share some of the same unanswered questions on the exact roles of viruses and genes and the immune system, they also share the same alarming evidence regarding diet. For both diseases, a “Western” diet is strongly associated with disease incidence. Despite the efforts of those who would rather dismiss or mire these observational studies in controversy, they paint a consistent picture. Intervention studies conducted on people already suffering from these diseases only reinforce the findings of the observational studies. Dr Swank did brilliant work on MS, and you may recall from chapter seven that Dr James Anderson successfully reduced the medication requirements for Type 1 diabetics using diet alone. It’s important to note that both of these doctors used a diet that was significantly more moderate than total whole foods, plant-based diet. I wonder what would happen to these autoimmune patients if the ideal diet were followed. I would bet on even greater success.”

Campbell, T. Colin; Thomas M. Campbell II (2006-06-01). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, (p.194 to 198).

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