Another reason the McDougall diet would be a good idea is growing evidence that people with MS also have vascular disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Those who decide to go on the diet must make sure they get all the nutrients they need, however — because cutting animal-derived foods could lead to deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and polyunsaturated-fatty acids.
Although a special diet may help people with MS, there is no evidence of a magic bullet. That is, no diet helps everyone, although several offer some benefits. People with MS should consult a physician before starting a diet so they can find the one that best meets their needs and preferences.
McDougall diet guidelines
The McDougall diet is based on plant sources of complex carbohydrates and starch, such as wheat-flour products, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, peas and lentils. Refined flour and white rice are not allowed.
Fruits and non-starch or colored vegetables can be included in any quantity.
Low sodium and small amounts of sugar and spices are allowed to give foos some flavor.
Animal-derived foods are not allowed, from dairy to eggs, meat, poultry and fish. No oils are allowed — even vegetable ones.
McDougall diet research
A study at the Oregon Health and Science University suggests that those with MS who go on a low-fat, plant-based diet for a year have less fatigue, a better mood, and can reduce their weight, cholesterol and insulin levels.
The one-year study involved 61 participants with MS who were assigned either to a diet or a waiting list. The second group, in other words, were a control group. Those assigned to the diet received a training at home through the McDougall Program, then were followed for 12 months. Physical checks and blood tests were done at the beginning of the study and at predetermined intervals afterward in the patients’ homes. A brain MRI was included in the last home visit.
The diet group ate starchy plant foods, but no meat, eggs, dairy products or vegetable oils. The control group followed their regular diet. Both groups were encouraged to perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week.
Although the McDougall diet appeared to have no effect on MS disease activity, as measured by the brain MRI, it reduced patients’ weight, cholesterol and insulin levels, and appeared to reduce fatigue.
Another small retrospective study on the effects of a seven-day McDougall diet resulted in changes in blood biomarkers used to predict a person’s risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. But the study was too short to predict the diet’s long-term effects on those conditions.
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