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OHSU to Study Whether Low-Fat Dieting Benefits Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University are launching a first-of-its-kind research study aimed at determining whether a low fat diet is beneficial to patients with multiple sclerosis.

In addition to tracking each patient's MS symptoms and examinations by a neurologist, researchers will try to determine the physical impacts of a low fat diet on the brain through the use of MRI.

"Low fat diets are popular among MS patients who believe they are beneficial," explained Vijayshree Yadav, M.D." However, there is little research on hand which demonstrates whether this is true and how exactly diet impacts the symptoms of MS. Through this study, we hope to quantify the impacts of diet on MS."

The research project is currently recruiting 54 study subjects. Half of these subjects will take part in a 10-day intensive dietary training program in Santa Rosa, California where they will learn about preparing low fat foods prescribed within the specialized diet. They will then follow the diet guidelines for the following 12 months. Their progress will be measured through questionnaires and MRI scans. The other half of the study subjects will be observed as a control group for 12 months and then enrolled in the same dietary training program at the conclusion of the study.

The diet being studied is called the McDougall Diet. It features starches such as potatoes, corn, rice, beans, pastas, breads, fruits and vegetables. Meat, including fish, is not included in the diet. Sample meals would include oatmeal and hash brown potatoes for breakfast, soups and sandwiches for lunch, and spaghetti, bean burritos and oriental rice for dinner.

Previous research in the 1950's by OHSU's own Dr. Roy Swank led to the belief that low fat dieting may benefit MS patients. In fact, one of Dr. Swank's studies, a 50-year dietary study of MS patients, was recently completed. That study, which tracked a group of 144 MS patients, suggested that dieting may positively impact both the symptoms of the disease and an individual patients' survivability. However, like other studies, the results failed to determine why this appears to be the case.

To be considered for this study, patients must have been diagnosed with MS in the past 10 years and be between the ages of 18 and 70. Patients must also be willing to follow exercise recommendations and meet several other requirements to be considered for inclusion in the study.

For more information or to apply for the study, please call 503 494-7241.

For more information about the McDougall Diet, visit

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.

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