There’s been a great deal of focus on vitamin D for the prevention of multiple sclerosis and, possibly, as a treatment. Multiple sclerosis is a progressive neurological disease that manifests with sensory, motor, visual and balance problems. Most people have a form of multiple sclerosis called relapsing-remitting, which means they have periods with few or no symptoms followed by “relapses” where new neurological symptoms appear. This pattern typically continues for years until the disease becomes progressive without remissions. There are a variety of medications that can reduce the frequency of relapses MS patients experience – and some experts think vitamin D may help. Is vitamin D for multiple sclerosis beneficial?
Vitamin D Deficiency and Multiple Sclerosis
It’s not surprising that attention would focus on vitamin D for multiple sclerosis patients. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that people with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood reduced their risk of getting multiple sclerosis by 62% compared to those with the lowest levels.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own myelin, the tissue that protects nerve cells. Vitamin D affects how the immune system works, which could explain its protective effects. It seems possible that vitamin D helps to prevent multiple sclerosis, but does it also help to treat the disease?
Vitamin D for Multiple Sclerosis
So far, research in this area has been limited. In one study where researchers gave 49 participants with multiple sclerosis variable doses of vitamin D, they found higher vitamin D doses lowered the frequency of relapses, disability scores and reduced the autoimmune response in these patients. Vitamin D supplements were also safe in this group of multiple sclerosis sufferers. Unfortunately, it’s hard to draw conclusions about vitamin D for multiple sclerosis treatment based on one trial.
The Bottom Line?
Higher levels of vitamin D lower the risk of multiple sclerosis, and it wouldn’t be surprising if vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis relapses. Unfortunately, there’s too little research available at this point to make recommendations, and it’s unclear what the optimal dose would be.
Until more is known, if you have multiple sclerosis, get your blood levels of vitamin D checked regularly and correct any deficiency, if there is one. Ask your doctor if you’re a good candidate for a vitamin D supplement.
Cochrane.org. “Vitamin D for Management of Multiple Sclerosis”