It is essential to reduce your saturated fat intake if you have MS to a maximum of 15g a day and to avoid hydrogenated fats, which are just as useless for the body. According to Professor Swank, although it will be un-apparent for several years, even a slightly higher amount of fat than 15g will result in a slow deterioration followed by an acceleration of the illness. Having followed 150 MS patients on their low-saturated fat diet for 35 years Swank realised that 90-95% of patients who begun it in the early stages of their MS with little or no obvious disability, did not worsen during that time. People who did not stick to the diet however, did get worse.
It is not just saturated fats that need to be reduced however. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are extremely important for people with MS; who have an unusual fatty acids pattern in their blood.
Because EFAs play an essential role in the maintenance of nervous tissues, they are needed in MS; where the nervous system is under attack, so that it may be repaired.
The myelin sheath, red and white blood cells, membranes, platelets, brain and blood plasma are all deficient in EFAs in people with MS. It is thought that lymphocytes (white blood cells) depend on the condition of cell the membrane. If a cell membrane is deficient in EFAs it becomes rigid causing certain of these lymphocytes to be less effective immunologically. A deficiency in EFAs also causes red blood cells to move slower than they should and have a lower surface charge in people with MS.
EFAs improve brain cell communication and ensure that cell membranes are fluid and flexible. It is suggested that by sticking to a diet rich in EFAs, people with MS will correct the problems mentioned above and have less demyelination resulting in less damage.
2 Types of EFAs –both are essential for fighting MS: both must be consumed so that the body can make them into longer chain, more biologically active unsaturated fatty acids, which are used by the brain. The derivatives** of these EFAs are more important than the parent* fatty acids. Eating the parent foods is fine, but it has been suggested that people with MS are possibly not efficient at converting them into their valuable derivatives.
1) *Linoleic acid (Omega 6) sunflower and safflower seeds, seed oils, vegetable oils, legumes etc
Regulates slow-moving and low surface charged red blood cells common in people with MS
Becomes (with the addition of bonds):
**Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) oats, evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant oil, breast milk etc – Is 50% more unsaturated than Linoleic acid, is rare and makes some prostaglandins, essential for health.
Becomes (through elongation of chain): DiHomo-gamma-linolenic acid with the addition of double bonds becomes:
**Arachidonic acid organ meats; liver, kidneys, brains etc
Involved in the production of prostaglandins, very important for healthy cells and said to help regulate immune system – liver is the best source.
2) *Alpha-linolenic acid (Omega 3) green leafy veg; broccoli, spinach, kale etc, legumes, linseed
Becomes Eicosapentaenoic acid which becomes:
**Docosahexaenoic acid Fish and sea food
Prostaglandins are made by GLA and Arachidonic acid (as outlined above) as and when they are needed.
– In MS, platelets clump together, prostaglandins are said to fix this abnormality.
– In MS the immune system attacks the body’s own matter. Series 1 Prostaglandins are said to regulate the T suppressor cells – a type of T lymphocyte (white blood cell) – which prevents the body from attacking itself. These cells are particularly low during an MS relapse and may become defective in a shortage of Series 1 Prostaglandins. Prostaglandins also stop lymphocytes which attack the central nervous system.
Enough polyunsaturated fats need to be introduced into the diet before there is an effect on the severity and duration of relapses. If these EFAs are not taken at the same time as enough anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals i.e. vegetables, they will be oxidised making peroxides which cause a lot of damage. Take a look at the MS diet for more information.