Roy Swank treated patients with Multiple Sclerosis. According to Compton and Coles (2008), “multiple sclerosis is primarily an inflammatory disorder of the brain and spinal cord in which focal lymphocytic infiltration leads to damage of myelin and axons” (p. 1502). Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include “weakness, numbness, a loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech and bladder control” according to PubMed Health (ND). While Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is thought to be an incurable disease (Clottu et al., 2017), Roy Swank’s research into a treatment for MS sufferers included dietary modification. His research indicated that a healthful diet could either slow or stop the progression of the disease. Dr. Roy Swank (MS with Roy Swank, John McDougall, 2016), in a taped interview with Dr. John McDougall, claims he began treating patients with multiple sclerosis in 1948 using a low fat diet (2:09). According to Swank and Dugan (1990), the low fat diet prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis was less then 20g of fat per day (para 1). Dr. Swank believed the culprit behind the symptoms of multiple sclerosis was excess fat within the human diet. Swank (1953) found that patients following a low fat diet did not experience symptoms of MS. He continued, saying:
Evidence has also been presented which suggests that the consumption of relatively saturated milk and animal fats is more likely to be associated with a high incidence of multiple sclerosis than is the consumption of unsaturated vegetable and fish oils. In either event fat intake seems to increase the incidence of multiple sclerosis by precipitating the disease in susceptible persons (p. 91).
According to Dr. Swank (MS with Roy Swank, John McDougall, 2016), in an interview with Dr. John McDougall, 150 MS patients were followed for over 40 years, following the low fat diet he prescribed. When results were posted at the end of 34 years, 95% of those patients who continued to follow the low fat diet were still active. The patient needs to follow the diet very strictly to avoid relapse of Multiple Sclerosis symptoms (3:50) (McDougall, 2016).
Swank (1953) believes that there is a vascular component to multiple sclerosis due to damage seen in the vascular system during the progression of the disease and he further believes blood sludging may be a contributory factor in the development of the disease (p. 98-99). Sludging refers to the thickness of the blood, or intravascular aggregation, after consuming a high fat meal (Swank, 1953, P. 99-100). Consuming a high fat diet of saturated animal fats and oils causes blood to sludge and slow, causing the vascular system to operate inefficiently. According to Swank (1953), “the aggregation of erythrocytes (“rafts”) were seen in vivo lodged at the capillary junctions blocking the blood flow” (pg. 99). Thick blood was unable to flow freely, which may be a contributing factor to the disease. Therefore he felt if the blood did not become thick, blood flow could remain relatively free flowing, thus decreasing blockage in capillary junctions that may have occurred within the vascular system. This decrease in blood thickness could be accomplished eliminating high fat animal foods and limiting the type and amount of oils used within the diet.
Swank and Dugan (1990) stipulated in the abstract of their paper, Effect of low saturated fat diet in early and late cases of multiple sclerosis, “The greatest benefit was seen in those with minimum disability at the start of the trial; in this group, when those who died from non-MS diseases were excluded from analysis, 95% survived and remained physically active” (para. 1). According to Kadoch (2012) in regards to the treatment of multiple sclerosis through diet versus the current medical standard of care, “to date, no medication or invasive procedure has ever come close to demonstrating such success” (p. 405). Dietary therapy may be a viable opportunity to improve health in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Swank’s work has shown that individuals who can make positive changes in dietary habits and follow a low fat (20g of fat or less per day), predominantly plant-based diet tend to stop or significantly slow the progression of the disease, yet his work has received little attention in the medical community. Kadoch (2012) states that “medications continue to be the cornerstone of treatment despite their marginal benefits, adverse reactions, and high costs” (p. 405). If dietary change can bring about such drastic results this should be the area of focus for further research. According to Kadoch (2012), “we should be building on Dr. Swank’s work if we want to cure this disease” (p. 405).
Roy Swank website can be viewed here – http://www.swankmsdiet.org/
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: https://overcomingms.org/recovery-program/diet/
Video: Approximately 6 minute: “MS with Roy Swank.” This is an interview between Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Roy Swank talking about the effectiveness off a low fat, plant based diet with limited consumption of oils and animal products for the treatment and potential long term cure of patients with multiple sclerosis.
Another video “Conversations with Roy L. Swank” recorded in 2001 (approximately 40 minutes). https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/education/videos/free-electures/conversations-with-roy-swank/
Video: Roy Swank, MD: Multiple Sclerosis Pioneer – Plus a Conversation with Dr. McDougall. (Approximately 1hr 30min) In this video John McDougall and Roy Swank talk about the mechanistic effect fat and cholesterol have on the vascular system and its potential cause of Multiple Sclerosis.
Treating Multiple Sclerosis with the Swank MS Diet https://nutritionfacts.org/video/treating-multiple-sclerosis-with-the-swank-ms-diet/
Roy Swank Quotes
“After considerable research, I developed a plan for the treatment of multiple sclerosis that absolutely anyone can do. A lifestyle change will have to take place, which may be a challenge for you, but the challenges of living with a disability are much greater.”
‘My 50 years of research and working with approximately 5,000 people, just like you, have proven that this protocol works to slow progression of the disease as well as benefit overall health.”
Book written by Roy Swank and Barbara Brewer Dugan: The multiple Sclerosis Diet Book; a low-fat diet for the treatment of M.S.
Clottu, A. S., Mathias, A., Sailer, A. W., Schluep, M., Seebach, J. D., Du Pasquier, R., & Pot, C. (2017). EBI2 expression and function: robust in memory lymphocytes and increased by natalizumab in multiple sclerosis. Cell reports, 18(1), 213-224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2016.12.006
Compston, A. Coles, A. (2008), Multiple Sclerosis, The Lancet. 372(9648), 1502-1517. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18970977
Kadoch, M. A., Is the treatment of multiple sclerosis headed in the wrong direction? Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 2012. 39, p 405. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22666902
McDougall, J. 2016, March 1. MS with Roy Swank. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjrVHSOgBWI.
McDougall, J. 2013, Jan 16. Roy Swank, MD: Multiple Sclerosis Pioneer-Plus a Conversation with Dr. McDougall. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLjox6wvaFQ
PubMed Health Glossary (Source: NIH – National Cancer Institute) National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine Library of Medicine. Retrieved from online August 23 2016. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024311/
Swank, R. L. Treatment of multiple sclerosis with Low-Fat Diet. American Medical Association Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry. (1953) 69, 91-103. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/archneurpsyc/article-abstract/651514
Swank, R. L., & Dugan, B. B. (1990). Effect of low saturated fat diet in early and late cases of multiple sclerosis [Abstract]. The Lancet, 336(8706), 37-39. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0140-6736(90)91533-G
Figure 1. Swank MS Foundation (2015). Roy Swank. Retrieved August 23, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.swankmsdiet.org/
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