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Book Review: The Gold Coast Cure
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The Gold Coast Cure
Andrew Larson, MD, and Ivy Ingram Larson

Book Details:
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0757302351
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc
Regular Price: $21.95
Online Discounted Price: $17.55

Editorial Review by Allen C. Bowling, MD PhD:
In The Gold Coast Cure, Andrew Larson, MD, and his wife, Ivy Larson, a certified fitness instructor, describe a diet and exercise approach that is claimed to prevent or reverse ten different diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS). This review will focus primarily on the MS relevance of the book.

The couple developed the diet after Ivy Larson was diagnosed with MS. Instead of using disease-modifying medication, she and her husband chose to develop and use a diet and exercise approach. She states, It has been seven years now since I was diagnosed, and today I can honestly say I feel better than ever.

The diet, one component of which includes decreased saturated fat and increased polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake, is designed to be anti-inflammatory. The diet is similar to the Swank diet but less stringent. The Larsons provide some good nutrition information and a nice balance between information and practical shopping and cooking advice.

The serious concern about this book is that the specific claims about MS are overstated. As indicated by the title of the book, this approach is described as a cure. The Larsons state that there is irrefutable evidence to support the Swank diet. Reviews of the Swank diet by our group and others (Bowling and Stewart, 2003; Bowling and Stewart, 2005; Schwarz and Leweling, 2005) have concluded that this diet produced promising results but the data are indeed refutable; the study was not controlled, randomized, or blinded. There have been other, more rigorous trials of omega-3 and omega-6 supplementation in MS that have also produced promising, but not definitive, results. At this time, the evidence for a disease-modifying effect in MS is much stronger for the FDA-approved medications than for a PUFA-enriched diet. Despite these facts, the Larsons write, Nutritional therapy first, medication second. They also state, By and large, medicines treat the symptoms of disease and not the underlying problem. In fact, the disease-modifying medications for MS do treat the underlying problem.

This book is potentially dangerous. After reading this book, some people with MS may conclude that it is reasonable to use a dietary approach instead of disease-modifying medications. This approach could cause disease activity and disability progression that might otherwise be avoided with medication use.

The Larsons emphasize that their approach may provide hope. Indeed, for some people with MS, the use of a diet may be an important source of hope as well as empowerment. However, the information about the potential benefits of a dietary approach must be presented honestly. For people with MS who want to use a PUFA-enriched dietary approach, one should discuss the results of clinical trials, provide realistic expectations, and encourage the use of disease-modifying medications in combination with the diet. Doing this, it is possible to be simultaneously honest, hopeful, and empowering.

References:
Bowling AC, Stewart TM. Current complementary and alternative therapies of multiple sclerosis. Curr Treatment Options Neurol 2003;5:55-68. Bowling AC, Stewart TM. Polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in MS. Int MS J 2005; in press. Schwarz S, Leweling H. Multiple sclerosis and nutrition. Mult Scler 2005;11:24-32.


About the Authors:

Kenneth Andrew Larson, MD, is a general surgeon with special interests in surgical nutrition, advanced laparoscopic surgery and bariatric (obesity) surgery. He trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and New Jersey's Monmouth Medical Center. In 2004, he joined a private surgical practice affiliated with the JFK Medical Center Staff in Atlantis, Florida.

Ivy Larson holds professional certifications as a fitness instructor and fitness-testing specialist through the Fitness Institute International. In addition to teaching Gold Coast Cure classes and seminars, she operates a private nutrition consultation practice.


About the Reviewer:
Dr. Allen C. Bowling is the Medical Director at the Rocky Mountain MS Center. He is also the Director of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program based at the center and is a Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Dr. Bowling received his undergraduate, M.D., and Ph.D. (pharmacology) degrees at Yale University. He completed a residency in the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco and was a Fellow in the Neurology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Bowling has published numerous articles in clinical and basic science journals.

To facilitate an increased understanding of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the unique context of MS, Dr. Bowling has reviewed the large body of relevant scientific and clinical research. He has presented information and original research on CAM and MS at national and international medical conferences. He has also presented information on CAM and MS to lay audiences. His work on herb and vitamin use in MS was awarded the Labe Scheinberg award at the annual meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers in May 1999. For his presentation on the development of a website focused on CAM and MS, he received the Berlex Award for Best Presentation in Patient Education at the annual meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers in June 2000. He has written professional and patient education material on CAM for the National MS Society. The information that he has developed on CAM and MS is available on a website (www.ms-cam.org) and in three books, Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis (Demos Medical Publishers, 2001) Dietary Supplements and Multiple Sclerosis: A Health Professional’s Guide (Demos Medical Publishers, 2004), and Multiple Sclerosis: The Guide to Treatment and Management (Demos Medical Publishers, in press).

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