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Plant-Based Diets for Multiple Sclerosis

The distinguished neurologist Roy Swank‘s low saturated fat diet remains the “most effective treatment of multiple sclerosis ever reported in the peer review literature.” In patients with early stage MS, 95% were without progression of their disease 34 years after adopting his meat and dairy-restricted diet. Even patients with initially advanced disease showed significant benefit. To date, no medication or invasive procedure has ever come close to demonstrating such success.

To understand one reason why a plant-based diet may be so successful in treating the disabling auto-immune disease, one has to first understand how the immune system works. This was one of the greatest mysteries in all of biology—solved by a brilliant scientist who won the Nobel in 1960 for figuring it out.

As I illustrate in my 3-min. video Clonal Selection Theory of Immunity, each one of our antibody-producing immune cells, called B-cells, produces only one type of antibody. Antibodies are one of the main weapons our immune system uses to attack foreign invaders. And they’re specific. It’s not just like we have one B-cell that covers grass pollen and another that covers bacteria, we have a B-cell in our body whose only job is to make antibodies against the pollen of purple Siberian oniongrass! (whether or not we ever come in contact with it). Another whose only job is to make antibodies against the tail proteins of bacteria that live only in the thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean…

Wait a second. There must be a billion different things in the world. If each of our B cells produces only one type of antibody, then we’d need to have a billion different types of B cells. And we do!

So, let’s suppose one day you’re walking along and get attacked by a platypus (they have poison spurs on their heels you know). And so for your whole life up until that point the B-cell in your body that produces antibodies against duck-billed platypus venom was just hanging around, twiddling its thumbs, until that very moment. As soon as the venom is detected it starts dividing like crazy, making copies of itself, and soon you have a whole swarm of clones specialized for platypus poison protection. Fending off the toxin, you live happily ever after. That is how the immune system works. Aren’t our bodies spectacular?

If we have a billion different types of antibody-producing B cells, each capable of recognizing a different molecular signature, why then do we tend not to attack ourselves? And how can what we eat sometimes undermine this inherent protection from autoimmune disease? Click on the above video pick to find out.

One answer may have to do with IGF-1, a cancer-promoting growth hormone. For more on IGF-1, see The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle and How Plant-Based to Lower IGF-1?

IGF-1 also appears to affect prostate gland growth. See Some Prostates Are Larger than Others, Prostate Versus Plants, and Prostate Versus a Plant-Based Diet.

    In health,
    Michael Greger, M.D.

    PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

    Image credit: GerryShaw / Wikimedia Commons

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    Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Health, Multiple Sclerosis, Videos, ,

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    Dr. Michael Greger

    A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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    6:06AM PST on Feb 2, 2014


    5:54PM PST on Jan 31, 2014

    Thanks for the post.

    5:52AM PST on Jan 15, 2013


    5:03AM PST on Jan 11, 2013


    7:30PM PST on Jan 10, 2013


    7:26PM PST on Jan 10, 2013

    Thanks for the share!

    6:57PM PST on Jan 10, 2013


    5:59PM PST on Jan 10, 2013

    We are wonderfully and intelligently made. wow. Thank you Lord.

    5:20PM PST on Jan 10, 2013

    good to know

    3:54PM PST on Jan 10, 2013


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