Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating condition of the central nervous system of complex aetiology. One such factor implicated in its onset and progression is diet and because of this a number of diet program have been proposed which their creators assert will improve MS.
This study sought to investigate the prevalence and characteristics of adherence to several popular diets proposed for people with MS.
The international observational cohort study, the HOLISM Study, has measured lifestyle and clinical characteristics over 5 years of follow-up. At the 5-year review, 952 participants were queried as to their adherence to 6 diet programs – the Overcoming MS (OMS), Wahls Elimination, Swank, McDougall, Ashton Embry Best Bet, and Palaeolithic diets – adherence constrained to those doing so for at least 12 months. Adherence was defined by two dichotomisations of the 5-point Likert at 3 and 4 of 5. Lifestyle characteristics of adherence to each diet were assessed by log-binomial regression.
OMS adherence was common, with roughly 30-40% adhering, while Swank (5-6%) and Wahls (2-3%) adherence was less frequent and other diets even less (<2%). Higher BMI and smokers were less likely to follow OMS, while participants who were more active, those consuming alcohol or using vitamin D/omega-3 supplements, and who meditated were more likely to adhere. OMS adherers were less likely to consume meat or dairy. Swank adherence was higher among those who were more active and less so among those of higher BMI, but otherwise did not differ by any lifestyle characteristics. Wahls adherence was more common among those consuming alcohol and those who consumed meat but less common among those consuming dairy.
OMS and to a lesser extent Swank and Wahls diets had material followings in this international cohort. Though it was expected all diet adherence would generally track with healthier lifestyle, there was some variability, suggesting that adherence to these diet programs is more likely in certain subgroups.