Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis, volume II- Since I started this blog in April, I have been posting my ‘Weekend Update’ posts to Reddit.com on the MultipleSclerosis sub-reddit. The experience has been largely positive, but when I decided to post an article I had written on vitamin D and multiple sclerosis, the response was largely negative. That is when I decided to restrict my posts on that site to the ‘Weekend Update’ posts only. I’m still a big believer in the role of vitamin D on the outcome of multiple sclerosis, even though there are some in the MS community who don’t feel it has any benefit. I was pleasantly shocked (and very thankful) when a Reddit user, whom I only know as ‘retractableclause‘ (whom I’ll refer to as RC) reached out to me with some current research that I don’t have access to through pubmed.org or other on-line sources. RC sent me several current research papers and articles to read (of which I’m about half way through) on vitamin D in relation to MS and other topics.
The research paper which excited me the most was the one titled, “Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis by Swui-Ling Ho, Lini Alappat, and Atif B. Awad,” from the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Science, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. The paper, written in 2011, looks at the ‘available evidence’ on Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis.
The paper, which you can download by clicking here, looks at many factors contributing to MS (genetic, environmental, nutritional factors, etc). It is a really good read (as far as academic papers can be) and I would encourage anyone with MS to give it a look.
If you are at all familiar with any of the research commonly available regarding vitamin D and MS, you’ve probably heard (or even read on this site) about the geographic distribution of the disease and how the prevalence of MS seems to increase the further away people live from the equator and the sea. In my last post on this topic, I posted a study which found that even though MS rates in Norway are relatively high with the exception coming from a coastal region where the diet is rich in fish (which is a food source of vitamin D). What I found very interesting in the paper sent to me by RC was:
In the EAE (animal model of human MS or ‘experimental autoimmune encephalopathy’) model, mice exposed to UV radiation before being immunized with myelin or myelin components were found to be effectively protected from EAE development….. Another study showed that treating mice with 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D during the EAE induction can reducethe severity of EAE presentations….. Feeding a vitamin D deficient diet to mice not only resulted in an increase in the susceptibility to EAE but also accelerated and aggravated the EAE symptoms.
Granted, these studies used mice, but their findings certainly suggest that their is a connection between vitamin D and MS. Moreover, the finding that UV radiation had a protecting effect seems to support the idea that exposure to sunlight, which provides vitamin D to people through the skin, can have an impact on people with MS. I know I have found that I feel better during the summer and when I have been spending time outside.
Unfortunately, the paper notes that, “the therapeutic effects of vitamin D on MS based on large scale, randomized control trials are still lacking.” However, the paper notes some smaller studies which suggest the benefit of vitamin D on persons with MS. I will be continually frustrated until the scientific community begins to look at the role of vitamin d and nutritional factors and how they can influence the course of multiple sclerosis. These topics won’t be taken seriously by the entire MS community until studies of this type are completed and without them, critics will continue to brush these ideas aside. It is my hope that with studies like the one sent to me by RC these topics won’t be forgotten. Unfortunately, the last line of this study remains true, ” well-designed randomized clinical trials to test the effectiveness of vitamin D and its analogues in MS patients are still needed.”
How to safely supplement with vitamin D
If you are considering supplementing with vitamin D, you should always check with your doctor and have your levels checked through a blood test. If your doctor is unsure, RC also sent me a paper on safely supplementing with vitamin D titled, ” A phase I/II dose-escalation trial of vitamin D3 and calcium in multiple sclerosis,” by J.M Burton MD et al from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. You can download the paper by clicking here.
Without reviewing the entire paper, which you should read yourself, the paper concludes that supplementing with up to 10,000 IU per day is safe. Currently, as I am running outside and absorbing vitamin D naturally, I take 3,000 IU in the morning and 3,000 IU in the evening. In the winter I adjust and take 4,000 IU in the morning and 4,000 IU in the evening.
Until next time,
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