News

Vitamin D may help prevent multiple sclerosis

September 1, 2010

A new review underpins correlation between vitamin D insufficiency and multiple sclerosis in children and adults.

In the review, Canadian researchers assessed the existing evidence for a relationship between impaired vitamin D status and multiple sclerosis (MS) (1). Their analysis showed that according to studies birth season and childhood sun exposure can affect subsequent MS risk. This suggests that primary prevention through increased exposure to UV radiation or vitamin D intake may need to begin as early as the prenatal time period. Although serum vitamin D levels are rarely evaluated in apparently healthy individuals prior to the onset of disease, one study did demonstrate that vitamin D status in early adulthood was inversely related to subsequent MS risk. A future long-term primary prevention trial could focus on women of childbearing age, infants, children and adolescents at increased genetic risk of MS in countries reporting the highest incidence such as Hungary, the United Kingdom, Norway and Canada.

Apart from the potential disease risk-reducing effects of vitamin D, there is already good rationale to encourage vitamin D supplementation for MS patients, the researchers concluded: Low vitamin D levels are frequently observed in children and adults with established MS, and many MS patients have low bone mineral density, increased risk of fracture, and possess multiple risk factors for osteoporosis. However, it would require further information on dose and efficacy to consider vitamin D as a therapeutic agent for established MS. At present, the totality of evidence for a protective role of vitamin D for MS has been deemed strong enough by some to warrant recommending vitamin D supplementation to people with MS and to individuals considered at high risk for MS.

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease affecting the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other. Symptoms include changes in sensation such as loss of sensitivity or tingling, pricking or numbness, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, or difficulty in moving. Although MS has been reported in most world regions, prevalence varies between different ethnic groups and across diverse geographical regions, supporting both genetic and environmental contributions to MS risk. While it is best known for its role in regulating calcium metabolism and bone mineralization, vitamin D is also involved in modulating immune function.

References

  1. Hanwell H. E. and Banwell B. Assessment of evidence for a protective role of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010.