The OMS Program and Dietary Fats

What does OMS stand for and where does it come from?

OMS stands for Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis. It is a program that focuses on diet and life style. It was designed to help people who suffer from MS improve their health and overall life and in my experience it helps people affected by MS take an active part in dealing with the illness and give them a measure of self-control and self-responsibility. The program was developed by Prof. George Jelinek and is based thorough, medical research. The OMS program was first published as a book Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis by Professor Jelinek. The OMS program has since grown into a charitable organisation with the aim to promote and make the recovery program available to the 2.5 million people with MS around the world. The link to their website is here.

What are the corner stones of the OMS program?

The main focus of the OMS program is life style.

  • The OMS program recommends a dietary change to a whole food, plant based diet with the addition of fish and seafoods. It advises people to remove all saturated fats, as well as fried foods and processed foods as the quality of the fats used in those are suggested to cause inflammation and thereby can trigger relapses in people with MS. Recent research suggests that people who suffer from MS benefit from Omega3 supplementation. The OMS program recommends a daily intake of at least 20g of omega 3 taken as flaxseed oil.
  • Regular Exercise of about 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Besides the well known benefits of exercise, people with MS seem to benefit from regular exercise in particular. As people with MS have a higher likelihood of suffering from depression exercise helps to combat that. There also seems to be a link between exercise and reduced relapse rate and less disability in people who have MS.
  • Stress management: Stress has been shown to have an adverse affect on people with long term illnesses, there is plenty of research that suggests reducing stress levels to be beneficial to the recovery and/or of illness progression. The OMS program recommends people to engage in regular meditation practices to counterbalance the effects of stress and help to manage stressful situations better as they arise.
  • Vitamin D/Sunlight: There is a lot of research that links the levels of vitamin D in the blood stream to the onset and development of MS. There seems to be a link between the level of sun exposure (the body produces vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight) and the onset of MS. For people who live in climates that are not conducive to sun bathing (the recommended dose being 15 minutes a day according to the OMS program) it is recommended to supplement by taking approx. 5000 to 10 000 i.U. per day to achieve a blood level of 150 – 225 nano mole/litre.
  • Medication when needed. The OMS program does not suggest to be a replacement for medical treatment. It is a set of recommendations to help people take control of their own life and help them to be and do the right and healthy thing for themselves and making sure these health recommendations are based on sound, scientific research.

What research is  the OMS Program diet based on?

The OMS program developed by Prof. George Jelinek is based on research by Dr. Roy Swank who suggested people with MS reduce their saturated fat intake to less than 15 g per day. Dr. Swank followed 150 patients on a low fat diet for 34 years and discovered that people who maintained this low fat diet had a dramatic drop in relapse rate of 80% within a year of commencing the diet and 95% drop of relapse rate after 5 years.

There is a long list of other research both completed and ongoing that is investigating aspects of lifestyle, diet and more investigating disease progression of people who have MS. Please visit the OMS Program website to read more about the science behind their recommendations. You can find the link to their Encyclopaedia here. As I have adopted these recommendations I thought it would be useful to include a quick outline of their program on my blog.


Why is there such a strong focus on fats for people who suffer from MS?

Fats are an essential building block in our body. The body uses the fat we consume in our diet to build and repair tissue. There are different types of fats, namely saturated fat, unsaturated fats and poly(many)-unsaturated fats. All these fats have different characteristics. As they get used as one of the main building blocks in making new tissue and cells they also affect the characteristic and quality of the cells we build with them.

Some types of fats (saturated fats and omega 6 fats) have been linked to cause inflammation. As MS in an inflammatory disease where cells are destroyed because they become inflamed, it is not only important to reduce these inflammatory triggering fats from our food. It is also important to supply our bodies with fats that are anti inflammatory for tissue repair and healing.

To summaries, it is important to reduce the amount of unhealthy fats and fats linked to inducing inflammation to an absolute minimum and replacing them with anti-inflammatory fats instead.

Is it enough to just stop cooking with unhealthy fats and cook with healthy fats instead?

The short answer to that is no. To eliminate unhealthy fats you have to be aware that unhealthy fats come disguised as healthy fats in our modern food industry. ‘Healthy’ margarines for example are usually produced by using refined oils.

Coconut oil and other coconut products have become one of the most popular cooking ingredients lately. Coconuts however have a massive saturated fat content and need to be eliminated from your diet if you follow the OMS program.

Cooking with fat is often synonymous with preparing both hot and cold with fat. While the use of healthy, extra virgin cold pressed oils is fine at low temperatures, heating oil changes their composition, removes their health benefits and often turns them into their refined unhealthy commercially available counterparts. It is therefore best to avoid cooking practices that heat oil all together. If absolutely necessary you can add a very small amount of extra virgin olive oil and water when frying. Instead of frying it is better to cook food by frying with water, steaming or baking. Healthy fats in particular flaxseed oils should never be heated and are best added to your food after the cooking process is completed just before serving.

To me the OMS program makes sense and I’ve been cooking like this for a couple of years now. The OMS program is not a low fat diet as such. It is only healthy fats diet. I have adopted the OMS dietary recommendations in all of my recipes. I started to compile them in my MS cookbook series because though there were a lot of dietary recommendations and some great recipes in the forums on the OMS website, there is no cookbook.