Previous studies have confirmed the link between the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) and low levels of vitamin D. Now a new study has confirmed that increasing the consumption of vitamin D slows disease progression and severity of MS symptoms and has an overall protective effect preventing the onset of MS.The World Health Organization estimates that 2.5 million people are affected by multiple sclerosis. MS is a central nervous system disease characterised by problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, feeling, and thinking. The new study is one of the first to examine vitamin D levels from the onset of symptoms of their disease.
“Because low vitamin D levels are common and can be easily and safely increased by oral supplementation, these findings may contribute to better outcomes for many MS patients,” said lead author Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
“The benefits of vitamin D appeared to be additive to those of interferon beta-1b, a drug that is very effective in reducing MS activity. The findings of our study indicate that identifying and correcting vitamin D insufficiency should become part of the standard of care for newly diagnosed MS patients,” said Ascherio.
The study consisted of analyzing data obtained from 465 MS patients from 18 European countries, Israel, and Canada who enrolled in 2002 and 2003 in the BENEFIT (Betaseron in Newly Emerging Multiple Sclerosis for Initial Treatment) trial, which was aimed at comparing the effectiveness of early versus late interferon beta-1b in treating the disease. The researchers examined levels of vitamin D correlated with disease symptoms and progression over a period of five years.
It was found that early stage MS patients with adequate levels of vitamin D had a 57% lower rate of new brain lesions, a 57% lower relapse rate, and a 25% lower yearly increase in lesion volume than those with lower levels of vitamin D. The study also confirmed that loss in brain volume, was lower among patients with adequate vitamin D levels.
Alberto Ascherio, Kassandra L. Munger, Rick White, Karl Köchert, Kelly Claire Simon, Chris H. Polman, Mark S. Freedman, Hans-Peter Hartung, David H. Miller, Xavier Montalbán, Gilles Edan, Frederik Barkhof, Dirk Pleimes, Ernst-Wilhelm Radü, Rupert Sandbrink, Ludwig Kappos, Christoph Pohl. Vitamin D as an Early Predictor of Multiple Sclerosis Activity and Progression. JAMA Neurology, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.5993