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Why has so little scientific research been done on ?

Sylvia Brown finds out.

The links between food and MS

To many of us with MS, it seems glaringly obvious that diet is a probable cause of MS. Yet it has been widely ignored. We all know about the geographical distribution of MS: High where they eat a lot of dairy produce, saturated fat, and grains; low where they eat a lot of fish.

On top of this, there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence about diet and MS. Many, like me, who radically change their diet see results. * Your condition gradually improves. Many doctors have seen this for themselves.

So why don't the medical profession take it seriously?

"There is no doubt that clinical trials with diet are needed," states Professor Christine Williams at the Nutrition Unit at the University of Reading."There is sufficient indication that diet could be an effective modulator for this disease."

So what's the problem?

Prof. D. A. Ledward, Head of the Department of Food & Science Technology at the University of Reading comes up with this : "We accept that diet plays a crucial role in many illnesses. But because of our biochemical individuality and the number of variables there are in MS, trials to confirm most of these relationships make them very expensive to prove to any degree of acceptable significance."

So money, it seems, lies at the root of the problem. You can't make a bundle of cash or a nice tidy profit from proving that people with MS can get better by changing their diet. Though heart disease seems to manage alright.

"I'm afraid the power of the drug companies has distracted many MS researchers away from diet and other non-drug issues," says Professor Charles Warlow, a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh. " It is much easier for a researcher to do a drug trial sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, than raise funds to do a serious trial of dietary interventions."

"This is not to blame the industry," Professor Warlow continues. " They are doing what they have to do in a competitive market. The problem lies with government which is not prepared to redress the balance and fund research into interventions of no commercial interest."

Ah. Commercial interest

It seems ironic that our drive for diet to be taken seriously comes at a time when one of the most extensively-researched and expensive drugs for MS, beta interferon, is deemed "not sufficiently cost-effective" by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to be widely prescribed for MS patients on the NHS.

I agree with Professor Warlow when he adds: "Patients themselves, and the MS Society, have become obsessed with beta interferon, even though any effect is marginal at best."

So wouldn't it be better to fund diet trials which could result in cost-effective treatment for more people?" They are trying to do just that in Canada - if they can raise the money. But even if they did it there, we would still have to do the same here too.

Our Campaign

So what else can we do? For a start, GPs could give information to their MS patients about diet. If patients ask: "Does diet play a role in MS", doctors shouldn't shilly-shally around. They should say yes. Saying 'we don't know' is no longer good enough. We do know.

How can you help?

We can also raise awareness, and lobby people who have power and influence. This is what we can do:

1)View our closed petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/747307120

2)Lobby the MS Society at 372, Edgeware Road, London, NW2 6ND. They have    the money to fund such research, and the power to make it happen.

3) Write to your local MP, either locally or at the House of Commons, London     SW2A 0AA. Or to contact your MP by email visit     http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps

4) Write to Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health and Norman Lamb MP Minister of State for Care and Support at the Dept of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS, UK

Remember to

Suggest diet as a realistic alternative to beta-interferon and highlight the urgent need to secure funding research trials on diet, it's our best hope of a major breakthrough in understanding MS and for getting a proven, effective, and cheap treatment in the near future.

D, N, E

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