The Swank diet is probably the best known of all diets associated with multiple sclerosis, having been the subject of MS research for more than 50 years. This low-fat diet is named after Dr. Roy Swank, who developed it in the 1940s.
Following a special diet may help some people with MS, although evidence supports no one particular diet but finds potential benefits in several. People with MS would do well to consult with their personal physicians before starting a diet that best meets their individual needs and preferences.
The Swank diet guidelines
The Swank diet is focused on reducing saturated and regulating unsaturated fats: it allows no more than 15 grams of saturated fat a day (animal fat, and vegetable or other processed oils like coconut oil), and between 20 and 50 grams of unsaturated fats, oils like olive or sesame oil, sunflower, flaxseed or peanut oil. (In general, 5 grams equals 1 teaspoon.)
Essential fatty acids are necessary nutrients, and reducing saturated fat intake means increasing consumption of unsaturated fats.
Red meat and pork is prohibited for the first year. After that year, 85 grams (about 3 ounces) of leaner cuts of red meats, or pork, is allowed once a week.
Fruits and vegetables are allowed in any amount, but recommended is two fruits and two cups of vegetables each day.
Skinless white-meat poultry and white fish (cod, flounder, halibut, tuna canned in water) are allowed in any amount, but dark-meat poultry and fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna in oil) should be limited to 50 grams (about 2 ounces) daily.
Dairy products should contain 1% or less fat. Only egg whites should be used.
This diet recommends cod liver oil, and multi-vitamin and mineral supplements.
Whole-grain breads, rice and pastas are allowed.
Snacks of nuts and seeds are preferred to sweets, as they are good sources of natural oil and help to maintain a healthy energy level.
The Swank diet in research
Dr. Swank reported on his observations, made over 20 years in treating MS patients in part by using his diet, in a study published in 1970.
He suggested that the diet reduced the occurrence of relapses, disability and mortality. However, it is important to note that this study did not have a control arm and a scoring system for measuring disability in MS, such as the expanded disability status scale or EDSS, were not available.
The MS Society notes that research did not establish benefits for this diet, or other diets. However, following this diet or others would not be bad for your health.
Here is a link to a quick reference for the Swank diet.
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