A survey of people in 36 different countries also suggests that the types of fat people eat may impact MS. In that report, people with MS who ate foods high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids were likely to live longer than those who ate more saturated fats. In another survey, researchers gathered information from nearly 400 people (half with MS) over three years. They found that people who ate more fish were less likely to develop MS, while those who ate pork, hot dogs, and other foods high in animal (saturated) fats were at greater risk. This same report found consumption of vegetable protein, fruit juice, and foods rich in vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and potassium correlated with a decreased MS risk. Eating sweets was linked to an increased risk.
Despite research showing improvement with a low-fat diet in some people with MS, the link between foods containing animal fat and MS risk may not necessarily be due to the fat itself. Preliminary evidence from one report revealed an association between eating dairy foods (cows’milk, butter, and cream) and an increased prevalence of MS, yet no link was found between (high fat) cheese and MS in that same report.
MS has been associated with a variety of dietary components apparently unrelated to fat intake, and the link between MS and diet remains poorly understood. Nonetheless, the most consistent links to date appear to involve certain foods containing animal fat. People with MS wishing to pursue a nutritional approach that incorporates an understanding of this research should consult with a doctor familiar with the “Swank diet.”
Some people with MS avoid gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) in hopes of diminishing symptoms, because a preliminary study reported that consumption of grain (bread and pasta) was linked to development of MS. However, another trial found an association between eating cereals and breads and reduced MS risk. Other researchers have found gluten sensitivity to be no more common among people with MS than among healthy people. Thus, the idea that avoiding gluten will help MS remains speculative.