According to a new study Vitamin D deficiency and the progression of Multiple Sclerosis is linked. The study, published here in JAMA Neurology, is from January 20, 2014. The authors note that past studies have shown a relationship between MS and vitamin D deficiency but have not made a direct connection. Additionally past studies have not looked at vitamin D levels at the first diagnosis of MS compared to later in the patient’s life as the disease progresses. This study looked at people who were recently diagnosed with MS and measured their vitamin D levels as a baseline. They followed up with the people in the study at 12 months and then regularly for an average of five years. The authors kept track of their vitamin D levels and noted the participants MS symptoms such as lesion development, total lesion burden, brain atrophy, amount of relapses, and disability. The authors found that the patients with the lowest levels of vitamin D at the baseline had the greatest progression of MS and the worst symptoms several years later.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of the mylein sheath which allows the increased speed of transmission of an impulse along a nerve. The damage that MS does to the nerve cell disrupts the communication between the brain and body and can results in a wide range of signs and symptoms; which include muscle weakness, blurred vision, poor coordination, and double vision to name a few. About 400,000 Americans suffer from MS which is 3 times more common in women than in men and is usually first diagnosed between 20 and 50 years of age. MS is a complex disease that has no cure and the cause can be due to a number of different factors. The treatment for MS revolves around slowing it’s progression, treating the symptoms, and limiting relapses. The life span and prognosis for a person with MS is not all that different than in the general population.
This paper is proof positive that we should not underestimate the role vitamin D plays in our health. While the authors are unsure what role D plays in limiting MS progression it is clear to me that D plays an important role in cellular function. If we give our bodies enough of what it needs, our bodies will work better and that includes repair and healing in during disease. The lead author of the paper he notes that there are several large studies undergoing right now to further investigate the role vitamin D plays in MS. These trials are looking at what happens when we push the levels of vitamin D in the blood to high and very high levels. I am guessing they are looking into whether high levels of vitamin D can heal the damage done by MS.
Vitamin D plays a very important role in the way our bodies function, and in our climate it is not uncommon for many of us to be deficient. MS or not we need to monitor our Vitamin D levels and be sure we are taking enough to stay at a healthy level.