Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis- Over lunch today I have been reading a fascinating paper on the role of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis. Granted, the paper titled , “Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis,” by Colleen Hayes et al, was written in 1997, but it touched on so many of the topics that now encompass what I believe about the disease. I have mentioned previously my fascination with the geographic distribution of MS combined with the role of Vitamin D and I wish more research was done on these factors. However, vitamin D is relatively inexpensive and there are no new products to be created by directing people to different areas of the grocery store, so the skeptic in me doubts any serious research dollars will ever be directed toward these topics.
You can download and read the paper by clicking the link below
The paper is a bit of a tough read at times if you’re not used to academic papers, so I’ll highlight a few of the interesting points made throughout the article. Early in the paper, the authors make note of the geographical distribution of the disease:
… Worldwide epidemiological studies have since shown MS prevalence rate is nearly zero in equatorial regions and increases to more than 50 per ten to the fifth population at latitudes greater than 45 degrees in both the northern and the southern hemispheres.
… sunshine and December daily solar radiation were significantly and inversely correlated with MS independently of latitude. These researchers concluded that sunshine “could conceivably act directly- a certain skin dose of sunshine per unit time protecting the individual in some way.
While still related to sunlight, the paper then begins to start incorporating diet into the picture of what is occurring with people with MS. The authors study Norway and find:
A second anomaly is the relatively high MS risk in Scandinavia except along the Atlantic coast of Norway. This anomaly is also unlikely to have a genetic basis, but it may have a dietary basis. Most foods have little vitamin D3 content, but fish oil is a rich source of vitamin D3. Norwegians living in coastal fishing districts consumed an amount of fish and margarine that provided about 1300 IU of vitamin D3 daily, about 3-fold higher than individuals living in the inland agricultural districts.
This paper actually makes me angry. Not because I take issue with anything stated, but because I have had three separate neurologists since 2007 and only one of them (even then in passing) ever mentioned vitamin D. This paper is sixteen years old! Obviously, research which shows the potential benefit of vitamin D has been around for a while, so why have two of three neurologists omitted this information from their consultations with me? While the authors of this paper note the evidence is “indirect”, it is compelling enough that people diagnosed with MS should be made aware. Supplementation with vitamin D and Fish Oil can be done safely and inexpensively.
You can read and evaluate the paper for yourself, but looking back at studies like these and the emergence of figures like Dr. Terry Wahls, one has to wonder if the research focus of MS will ever shift away from the neurological/immune system hypothesis to one where the condition is treated as a dietary issue. I sincerely hope that the drug and food companies wouldn’t actually block research into these areas to protect their profits, however, the skeptic in me thinks it is entirely possible.
More on Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis
Until next time,