According to a new study, fatigue is significantly less in people with MS following plant based diet very low in saturated fat.
The study was the first randomized-controlled trial to examine the potential benefits of the low fat diet on the management of MS. The study found no significant differences between the two groups in brain lesions detected on MRI brain scans or on other measures of MS. But while the number of trial participants was relatively small, study leaders believe the significantly improved fatigue symptoms merited further and larger studies of the diet.
"Fatigue can be a debilitating problem for many people living with relapsing-remitting MS," said Vijayshree Yadav, M.D., an associate professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and clinical medical director of the OHSU Multiple Sclerosis Center. "So this study's results showing some notable improvement in fatigue for people who follow this diet are a hopeful hint of something that could help many people with MS."
The study investigated the effects of following a diet called the McDougall Diet, devised by John McDougall, M.D. The diet is partly based on an MS-fighting diet developed in the 1940s and 1950s by the late Roy Swank, M.D., a former head of the division of neurology at OHSU. The McDougall diet, very low in saturated fat, focuses on eating starches, fruits and vegetables and does not include meat, fish or dairy products.
The study, which began in 2008, looked at the diet's effect on the most common form of MS, called relapsing-remitting MS. About 85 percent of people with MS have relapsing-remitting MS, characterized by clearly defined attacks of worsening neurological function followed by recovery periods when symptoms improve partially or completely.