MS Research Suggests More Supplementation With Vitamin D


courtesy of flickr user Village Green Apothecary (creative commons)


From the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, Toronto, Canada: 

Multiple sclerosis is always an important topic at the AAN meeting, but in covering the poster sessions, I was surprised by the generous sprinkling of posters related to vitamin D. I guess I shouldn’t have been. Previous research has show that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), and it might affect the disease course of MS. How are vitamin D levels related to MS? No one knows for sure, but it looks like many researchers are trying to find out.   

One poster by Dr. Asfa Y. Shad, a neurologist in Detroit, and her colleagues simply noted that, compared with 304 controls, 238 MS patients were significantly more likely to have insufficient vitamin D levels, regardless of gender, MS type, or MS duration. 

In another poster, Dr. Fredric K. Cantor, a Bethesda, Md.-based neurologist, and his colleagues suggested that vitamin D levels might play a role in the occurrence of relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), after comparing MRI contrast-enhancing lesions (markers of acute inflammation) and vitamin D levels in patients with RRMS. Data from this study showed that lesions were present in 48% of vitamin D-deficient patients, 35% of vitamin D-insufficient patients, and 21% of patients with adequate vitamin D levels. 

In a third poster, Dr. Jodie Benton conducted a meta-analysis to identify possible nongenetic risk factors in MS patients that might impair vitamin D activity. She found that anticonvulsant use, vitamin A, pregnancy, and type 2 diabetes appeared to be risk factors for low vitamin D in MS patients, as did obesity and a high body mass index. Dr. Burton noted that megadoses of as much as 50,000 IU per week are becoming common in MS treatment centers, and her study results support increased vitamin D supplementation. 

 Taken together, the take-home message I got from these posters is that if clinicians who treat MS patients are able to modify any of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency and promote high doses of vitamin D supplementation, they might have a relatively simple way to improve their patients’ health. 

 Most people (with or without MS) could benefit from more vitamin D, Dr. Benton told me. The current U.S. guidelines for adequate intake (200-400 IU for adults) are outdated, she said. 

 So I guess this is another reason to get outside for (moderate) vitamin D exposure, and maybe keep some of those chewy chocolate vitamin D supplements on hand (Mmm, chocolate!). 

 Food for thought: Doctors, are you checking vitamin D levels in patients more often and prescribing more supplements than you used to? 

–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)

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Filed under Alternative and Complementary Medicine, IMNG, Neurology and Neurological Surgery

4 responses to “MS Research Suggests More Supplementation With Vitamin D

  1. Sherry Boschert

    I’m fascinated by the vitamin D story too, not just regarding MS but by reports that you and I and our colleagues at Elsevier Global Medical News cover at many medical conferences about associations between low levels of vitamin D and many kinds of health problems (including cancer).

    It’s tricky, though, because this is still very much a chicken-and-egg scenario. Except for the proven relationship between low vitamin D and poor bone health, it’s not clear whether low vitamin D levels are contributing to the health problems or vice versa. So, boosting vitamin D supplements may not help if it’s the MS or the cancer causing low vitamin D levels instead of the other way around. It’s interesting that “megadoses of as much as 50,000 IU per week are becoming common in MS treatment centers.” I hope someone is studying these patients and will report outcomes.

    I don’t mean to disparage vitamin D supplementation at this point, though. It seems a relatively safe strategy that might (or might not) make a difference, and we won’t know until we study it.

    –Sherry Boschert

  2. The post you have provided here is really great i like it very much……thanks and great job…

  3. High blood levels of vitamins to also include magnesium and calcium. Magnesium is a good vitamin for high blood pressure and that this deficiency can cause blood pressure. It can also be found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, purslane, poppy seeds and green beans.

  4. Hi, nice post. It is really informative and useful.
    Thanks for sharing!

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