Can Diet Ease MS Fatigue? Clinical Trial, Now Recruiting, Wants to Find Out

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The National Multiple Sclerosis Society  announced that it has dedicated more than $1 million to support a clinical study at the University of Iowa that will compare two types of diet and their effectiveness in easing fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

“The National MS Society is committed to identifying wellness solutions to help people live their best lives,” Bruce Bebo, PhD, the Society’s executive vice president, Research, said in a press release.  “We’re very pleased to support a rigorous clinical trial to test the ability of two popular MS dietary approaches to address the disabling symptom of fatigue.”

Numerous studies have looked at dietary approaches to treating disease symptoms, but the protocols of many for MS were not sufficiently rigorous to provide suitable evidence for treatment recommendations.  The new trial was carefully designed to understand the impact of diet on MS-related fatigue and other symptoms experienced by people with the disease.

The 36-week trial will enroll 100 patients with a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and symptoms of fatigue.  Patients will be asked to follow their normal diet for 12 weeks, after which they will be randomized to either the Swank diet, which is low in saturated fats, or the Wahls diet,  a modified Paleolithic diet, for a 24-week period. Patients’ health and activities will be closely monitored throughout the trial.

Dr. Terry Wahls, the study’s lead investigator, was diagnosed with RRMS in 2000. She spent over a decade studying certain foods and vitamins, and their effects on health. Based on her experience, she created the Wahls Protocol diet, an adapted form of the well-known Paleolithic diet that does not incorporate eggs, dairy products, grains, legumes, or nightshade vegetables (like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers), but rather emphasizes foods likely available to the earliest humans: meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables.

“Together with the National MS Society, and this grant, we will be able to take our long-standing work even further, examining how food and nutrients can impact the lives of people with multiple sclerosis,” said Wahls.

The Swank Diet is a diet that is low in saturated fat, proposed in 1948 by Dr. Roy Laver Swank for the treatment of MS. The diet was created after he realized that incidences of MS were higher in geographic areas where people ate more meats, eggs, cheese, and milk, than in areas where they ate more fish. He spent more than 50 years recommending this diet to his patients and monitoring their health.

Studies have shown that both diets have a beneficial health impact on patients with MS.

Screening questionnaires for anyone interested in participating in the clinical trial are available at, using the code: JMJPYEJHP.  For questions, please email, or call 319-384-5053.

The National MS Society’s contribution is part a planned investment of $50 million in 2016, that will fund in part or whole over 380 clinical trials worldwide designed to treat or stop MS progression, restore patients’ ability to function, and, eventually, end the disease forever.


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  1. Philip Longford says:

    Following either of these diets, cannot do you any harm, and at least you feel like you are making some kind of effort, to fight the MS. Better than just sitting on your backside, accepting defeat, and the inevitable deterioration. Been following the Wahls Protocol (not totally rigorously!) for 6 months. No noticeable improvement, but happy to continue. Will see what happens. Also doing Baric oxygen treatment, yoga, physio, and various vitamins. Better than doing nothing!

  2. Karen says:

    I think the study is a wonderful, and must needed endeavor. However, isn’t this a biased study? How can someone who stands to profit if her diet shows benefits over the Swank diet be impartial?

  3. miked says:

    I am glad this study is being done “but” this study should really be using the Overcoming MS diet instead of the Swank diet.
    The OMS diet is a refined version of the Swank diet as is the Wahls diet a refined version of the Paleo diet. These are the two major diets used today by those with MS who are following a MS diet. The Swank diet is rarely used anymore. The main differences are that the OMS diet does not allow meat other than seafood (high omega 3) and (mostly for saturated fat reasons and they feel that chicken breast is a slippery slope to a cheese burger) and the Wahls diet does allow grass fed organic very lean red or white meat, for example buffalo and chicken or turkey breast) also the Wahls diet is gluten free where as the OMS diet does not preclude gluten. I have a VERY close relative who has RRMS and is doing great on a combo of the two diets. It is primarily OMS but is gluten free and includes chicken breast which has been boiled to get any saturated fat out, to keep saturated fat intake to 2.5grams per day.
    I am somewhat suspect that Dr. Wahls maybe skewing the results in favor of her refined Paleo diet by using the old Swank diet when she knows perfectly well there is a better modernized refined version of the Swank diet used by many thousands with great results. This is not to say her diet is not good I personally think both are, but the methodology is suspect from the standpoint of diets used. I would really like to know which diet is better Dr. Wahls diet (refined Paleo) or the OMS diet (refined Swank).

      • miked says:

        Google “Overcoming MS” or just go to the website
        They are a non profit started by Dr. George Jelinek, please get his book, it will explain the differences. Dr. Jelinek met with Dr. Swank and based his program on the Swank diet. He gives total credit for his diet being based on the work of Dr. Swank. Also OMS is so much more than just the diet. They are Australia based but are having a couple of one day seminars this fall, my friend whole holds a Dr. of Pharmacy degree and his wife a surgeon are attending. If you can it may be something you’d be interested in.

    • Mike says:

      These diets have helped people with PP. Read Terry Wahl’s story she was in a wheel chair and now fully mobile. Also go to the Overcoming MS website you can find great info there. The diets are somewhat similar in that they do not allow dairy and are low in saturated fats. Wahl’s diet allows very low fat meats vs the OMS diet which only allows fish. There are some other differences but you are better off doing your own reading. Terry Wahl’s wrote a book about her experience and Dr George Jelinek from OMS wrote one also OMS is also very big into vitamin D not sure about Wahl’s. The evidence for vitamin D is too compelling to ignore. OMS is a non-profit, not sure about Wahl’s some have said she is more of a business. I would get both books.

  4. JoAnn Bigley says:

    I am interesting in being part of this trial. I have tried a few diet approaches over the years. I would be happy to contribute to extending our learning about diet and MS.

  5. Mara Rost says:

    I would be interested in being a part of this trial but I have PPMS. What is the reason why you are excluding us from this study?

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