Born in 1904 into a well-to-do family in Russia, Catherine Kousmine and her parents fled the country in 1916 before the Russian revolution, settling in Lausanne. The young Catherine went to the Ecole Supérieure of Lausanne where she graduated in sciences. She then went on to medical school. Upon graduation in 1928, she moved to Zurich, in professor Guido Fanconi's unit, to specialize in pediatrics, then worked in Vienna, Austria, where she got her degree in this discipline.
Back in Switzerland, she had to resume her work as a general practitioner because her degree in pediatrics was not recognized by Swiss authorities. Dr. Kousmine spent most of her life in Switzerland. She set up a foundation in her name in Lutry, Switzerland, to promote her methods: Fondation Catherine Kousmine. It has sister foundations in France, Germany and Italy. There is also a Kousmine Medical Center in Vevey, Switzerland.
Kousmine advocated a restrictive diet as a basis for treating a number of human ailments, especially cancer. The diet, that Dr. Kousmine provided as a complement to mainstream medicine and not as an alternative, emphasizes fruits, vegetables and grain and particularly advocates a grain- and seed-based breakfast; vitamins supplements are also incorporated.
She decided to conduct research in cancer, mostly because of the death from cancer of two children in her care while she was working as a general practitioner. For seventeen years, working in a makeshift laboratory in her kitchen, she studied a special breed of mice that develop mammalian cancer at four months of age. She believed she discovered a correlation between a healthy diet and a remission of their cancer and became convinced that the cure for diseases sometimes labeled "incurable" involves the return to a healthy feeding habit - one that provides all the nutrients that the organism needs to function properly. Consequently, she focused her attention on healthy diet. In 1949, she claimed to have treated with success her first of many cancer patients, this one suffering from reticulo-sarcoma, a tumor of the heart, thanks in part to the use of a healthy diet
Kousmine's first book, of 1955, advocated delaying cancer surgery while the diet was followed — causing considerable controversy at the time.
There is no evidence that the diet is effective for the treatment of cancer or multiple sclerosis. Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh list the Kousmine diet among the many in alternative medicine which are being promoted on the basis of unsubstantiated health claims.
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- In 1985, the Société d'Encouragement au Progrès — whose headquarters are in Paris (France) — gave her the Médaille de Vermeil for her outstanding accomplishment with multiple sclerosis.
- In 1989, she was made an honorary citizen of Lutry, Switzerland.
- Soyez bien dans votre assiette jusqu'à 80 ans et plus (Be mindful of your diet, up to 80 and beyond), éditions Sand, 1980, ISBN 2-7107-0158-8
- La sclérose en plaque est guérissable (Multiple sclerosis is curable), éditions Delachaux et Nestlé 1983, ISBN 2-603-00502-2
- Sauvez votre corps (Save your body), éditions Robert Laffont, 1987, ISBN 2-290-33632-7, is a sequel to Soyez bien dans votre assiette, with more cases and in-depth explanations
- Simon Singh; Edzard Ernst (17 August 2008). Trick Or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine. W. W. Norton. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-393-06661-6.
- "Catherine Kousmine Obituary". The Times. 8 September 1992.
- Jean-Marie Abgrall (1 January 2000). Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age. Algora Publishing. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-1-892941-28-2.
- Committee on Multiple Sclerosis: Current Status and Strategies for the Future; Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health; Institute of Medicine (10 July 2001). Multiple Sclerosis: Current Status and Strategies for the Future. National Academies Press. p. 405. ISBN 978-0-309-17130-4.