We would like to apologize. Remember how we denigrated your cardiovascular health program for people with MS because it wasn't really double blinded and placebo controlled? Laughed at you for implying that MS might be a vascular disease? You had the audacity to suggest that people with Multiple Sclerosis would live longer, healthier lives by limiting saturated and trans fats, eating more fruits and vegetables, removing processed foods and exercising, and you had published research to back up your claims.
We assured everyone that you were spinning hope, not science. Since we knew MS was a purely an autoimmune disease, addressing cardiovascular health would make NO DIFFERENCE in disease progression. How would heart and blood vessel health change an autoimmune disease??? C'mon! You have to admit, it even now, it seems too simple. Yes, you published 170 scientific papers from 1934-2003, LINK But food and exercise helping MS disease progression? Too easy. It was placebo effect, obviously.
Here's what we said to the NY Times about programs like your "diet and whatever" in 2008:
Patricia O’Looney, vice president for biomedical research at the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said in an interview: “There’s a strong placebo effect in MS. With any change a person makes — in diet or whatever — they’re likely to feel better because they’re taking some action. Eating less saturated fat and more fish oil is good for all of us. But we’d never suggest changing one’s diet in place of taking a therapy approved by the FDA.
“Thus far, no researcher has been interested in taking this (nutrition for MS) on,” Dr. Kalb said. “The medications seemed to show more promise.”
So, we have recommended expensive FDA approved chemotherapies and those promising immune ablating and modulating drugs, in the hopes of wiping out all the nasty, aberrent immune cells. We used double blind placebo controlled gold-standard science--not as easy to do for your "diet."
Here's a news story from 1989, where we scientists discuss how our chemotherapies are going to conquer MS. It's compared and contrasted to you rather quaint lifestyle program. We look like the future. You look like a friendly, small town doctor. We are really taking dramatic risks, and we chuckle at your program for MS. (Of course, this particular chemo treatment failed in future trials, but hindsight is 20/20, right?)
Well, gosh. All these years later, it appears we might have been wrong and you were on to something!
Turns out nutrition, exercise and cardiovascularly healthful pursuits can make a difference in quality of life, and slow disease progression in MS, without the side effects. And your peer-reviewed and published research was actually right. Because even more research is being published on the connection, and your papers are being cited. Obesity in linked to faster MS progression, processed and highly fatty foods are linked to faster MS progression, and nutritional and lifestyle strategies are making a difference. People with MS show plasmic differences, related to endothelial dysfunction. Environmental factors like nutrition and exercise really affect disease progression. Cardiovascular exercise even reversed brain atrophy in progressive MS...
Huh. Who would have thought?
Here's our new updated "National MS Society Wellness Program." We're looking at your suggestions, sixty years later. Better late than never, right?
We won't give you any credit, mention your name and research, or make any public apologies. Because, well, we don't really want people to know that you were publishing this science on the cardiovascular connection to MS in the 1950s....and we could have saved millions from undue suffering.
Well, anyway. Bygones, OK?
(note: just so I won't get sued, this letter isn't real. It's satire. But it's really not that funny.)
For those who wish to learn more, here is Dr. Swank's website.
Here's is Dr. Ashton Embry's paper, a letter of love and appreciation for Dr. Swank's research, upon Dr. Swank's death in 2008. Dr. Embry went on to help his son Matt, by using Dr. Swank's principals.
Matt is now 20 years past his MS diagnosis, using diet and exercise alone, with no disease progression. Here's his program.
Here is Dr. George Jelinek's program, Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis, based on Dr. Swank's foundational research. http://www.overcomingmultiplesclerosis.org
And finally, here is the Endothelial Health Program. I used Dr. Swank's documentation of "capillary fragility" in MS, and brought his research into 21st century science with the recent discovery of nitric oxide as endothelially derived relaxing factor (EDRF), and how nutrition, lifestyle and exercise impact brain health.
The vascular connection to MS is real. It was real in the 1850s when Dr. Rindfleisch saw inflamed and engourged veins in MS brain tissue under his microscope, it was real in the 1940s when Dr. Putnam created MS lesions by blocking venous blood flow, it was real in the 1950s when Dr. Swank found the dietary connection, it was real in the 1980s when Dr. Schelling noted the venous connection and still real in 2005 when Dr. Zamboni saw on doppler ultrasound how blood was refluxing in jugular veins.
Please take care of yourselves. Eat well, move as much as you are able, don't smoke, get UV rays and plenty of sleep, laugh, pray and meditate, find support, and live your best life. Because science says these things can make a difference.