Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease. It is likely that vitamins and minerals can have a positive effect on the immune system and its function. There are two nutrients that stand out as having a positive effect: Vitamin D and Calcium. People with MS are advised to take Vitamin D supplements and to have their blood Vitamin D levels checked at regular intervals. Vitamin D has important effects on the function of the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with an increased risk of developing MS. This was initially shown in a study performed in a cohort of nurses in which it was found that an increased intake of vitamin D, either in the diet or in the form of supplements, was associated with a lower risk of MS. Another study of blood serum samples from military personnel showed that individuals who had the highest levels of vitamin D had the lowest risk of developing the disease, and individuals with lower levels of Vitamin D had higher risks of developing MS.
It is currently recommended that the average person take up to 2,000 international units (IU) of Vitamin D in combination with 1,000-1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium. Research studies indicate that these two nutrients work together and are best absorbed in the system when taken with food. However, common recommended doses of vitamin D in people with MS are between 1,000-4,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Before taking any Vitamin and mineral supplement you should check with your health care provider on the proper dose because some people might develop complications related to supplement toxicity. It is possible to check blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D and to use the result as a guide for how much vitamin D should be taken. A normal range for 25-hydroxy vitamin D level in blood is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Levels between 20-30 ng/ml are referred to as insufficient, and vitamin D deficiency is defined as levels less than 20 ng/ml.
A large number of studies have provided further information regarding the effects of vitamin D in MS. These include evidence that higher vitamin D levels are associated with lower numbers of new lesions as well as less brain atrophy on MRI. Higher vitamin D levels were not clearly associated with a lower chance of relapses, but people with MS were found to be less likely to develop worse symptoms. Such information suggests that taking vitamin D can have some beneficial effects. Unfortunately, as of this date, clinical trials testing Vitamin D supplements on a person’s course of MS do not demonstrate any beneficial effect. It has been found, however, that taking specific vitamin and mineral supplements can have a positive effect on people’s immune system.
People with MS should discuss all of their over-the-counter and prescription vitamin and mineral supplements with their health care provider . Additional information related to vitamin D and MS can be found on the website of the National MS Society at http://www.nationalmssociety.org and National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/VitaminD/