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Quick fixes and hard work December 12, 2010

Posted by manonamsion in multiple sclerosis, swank diet.

I’m blogging again today on CCSVI at the risk of getting the angry comments I always get when I suggest that the hard work of the Swank diet is currently a better path than the quick fix of a risky experimental procedure based upon an unproven hypothesis.   Having MS myself, I understand the fear and desperation that leads us to look for the “fix” for this disease.  But with a proven – and totally safe – method to control this disease already in hand, I continue to question why one would travel (frequently, it seems, to an underdeveloped country), for surgery that is uncertain at best and deadly at worst.

Let’s compare the options of CCSVI surgery vs. following the Swank Diet:

Surgery to correct CCSVI

While there is some correlation between MS and CCSVI, it certainly is far from universal and the causal link is unproven.  A recent study showed that 62% of MS patients had CCSVI, but this was also true for 26% of healthy controls and 45% of participants with other neurological disorders.   At the very least, if there is some kind of causal link – i.e., that CCSVI causes MS – it is bound to be a complex one.

Additionally, the surgery itself has not been shown to provide lasting effects due to “restenosis” in almost half of surgical patients.  Recently, at least two patients have died of post-operative complications.  In short, as with any surgery, there are significant risks that must be considered. 

I am not saying that surgery is never justified, and I am not saying that CCSVI has nothing to do with MS.  I am just stating the fact that it is very early in the research on this prospect.

The Swank Diet for Multiple Sclerosis

In contrast,  the Swank Diet has been proven to be more effective in preventing disease progression than any drug on the market – or in clinical trials.   When I first learned of the Swank diet, my reaction was that it could not really work, because if it did, everyone would do it and my neurologist would have told me about it.   But when I found Dr. George Jelinek’s brilliant website, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, and read his fantastic new book, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, I came to understand that the medical establishment has disregarded the most effective treatment option for multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Swank studied a group of his patients over a period of over 34 years and tracked their disease progression.  Those who followed his recommendations, primarily to reduce saturated fat intake to below 20 grams per day, were called “good dieters” and those who violated these recommendations were called “poor dieters.”  It is worth noting that even the poor dieters reduced their saturated fat far below the intake of the average American (which has only gone up over the ensuing decades, by the way): their saturated fat intake averaged 29-32 grams per day, while the average American consumes over 100 grams per day!  So following the Swank diet means following the Swank diet, not dabbling in the Swank diet.  Going for “moderation” simply does not do the trick.

The Swank results?  Stunning.  Disease progression among good dieters was minimal over a 34 year period, while disease progression among poor dieters was, quite frankly, scary.  Those with minimal impairment who followed the diet remained minimally impaired; those who didn’t follow the diet were likely to end in a wheelchair, bedridden or dead.  I’m not going to reproduce all the results here, but I highly recommend you read the page on Dr. Jelinek’s website that provides the detail.  It convinced me, and I haven’t consumed more than 10-15 grams of saturated fat on any day since I read it.

Now, it is true, as Dr. Jelinek details, that there has been criticism of the methodology of Dr. Swank’s research.  This amazing study over decades is not considered good science by many doctors because it was not a double-blind study – both the doctor and the patients knew who was on the diet and who was not following diet.  In the world of drug testing, this is a flaw because of the possibility of both researcher bias and placebo effect on patients, and under this view, the success of the diet is not “proven.”  But ask yourself how on Earth you could ever do a double blind study of such a comprehensive life style change over any time period, much less a 34 year period.  While the scientists may consider this flaw insurmountable, as someone with the disease, stunning results achieved over more than three decades is enough for me!

The Bottom Line

The excitement over CCSVI surgery as a quick fix to multiple sclerosis is certainly understandable.  But he hard work of changing your dietary habits has been proven the more effective path.  As for downside, the risks of surgery speak for themselves, while the risk of a low saturated fat diet is that you won’t develop heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer in addition to your MS! 

I hope that someday there is a quick fix for MS – I even hope it proves to be surgery to correct CCSVI, since that is furthest along.  I would probably opt for a quick  fix myself, although after a 15 months of healthy living, I would never go back to how I used to eat.  In the meantime, I hope you opt for the hard work of eating right and staying healthy.

I am here to help you.  Post a comment or send me an e-mail (manonamsion@gmail.com) and I will answer your questions, or refer you to where you can get answers.  Please do this for yourself.



1. Julie Calder - December 12, 2010

I am having a Doppler scan in January, but I am not going to proceed afterwards to having the surgery, regardless of the results. I just want to know whether the diet is helping to keep my veins clear! I feel that the ‘procedure’ is in its infancy and because I am feeling so well on the diet, I don’t want to undergo anything ‘risky’ if it is not absolutely necessary. As long as I am feeling well, I will not consider surgery.

2. Catriona Tate - January 18, 2011

I completely and totally agree. It seems to me that the low saturated fat diet and the “liberation procedure” to correct CCSVI have a similar mechanism of action – as it’s well understood that dietary fat can lead to a build up of fatty plaques that narrow blood vessels. I can imagine that CCSVI may sometimes arise from congenital distortions in veins, and that sometimes dietary fat may exacerbate this condition (by fatty plaques further narrowing the veins) or even lead to similar restriction occurring in previously healthy veins. MS is a complicated disease and many factors can contribute it – there is no “one true cause”.

So, I don’t think this is a matter of two opposing theories, but of two possible causes of narrowed blood vessels with two possible treatments – one a quick fix with dramatic initial results (but results that might not persist if dietary fat leads to fatty plaques narrowing the blood vessels again) and the other a slower more gradual change (but with results that continue as long as the lifestyle change is maintained).

So, I’m not sure if surgery to treat CCSVI is worth it for everyone – but I definitely understand if someone with severe symptoms wants the immediate relief that the CCSVI “liberation procedure” may offer. However, I think some caution is needed.

Firstly, and most importantly, start following the Swank diet. This might maintain the results of the surgery – and has been demonstrated to be effective on its own.
Secondly, the treatment may not work on you – if so, the Swank diet is a good back-up plan.
Thirdly, please remember that pharmaceutical companies aren’t the only people who make money from providing healthcare – “snake oil salesmen” are everywhere, so keep a cynical head when dealing with anyone who claims they can cure you.

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