Multiple sclerosis patients may benefit from higher vitamin D dosage levels

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Brain Function | Friday, March 04, 2016 - 10:00 AM

Multiple sclerosis benefit from vitamin DMultiple sclerosis patients may benefit from higher vitamin D dosage levels. Research has found that high dose vitamin D3 for multiple sclerosis patients may help regulate the body’s hyperactive immune response. The findings come from researchers at Johns Hopkins.

Study author Peter Calabresi said, “These results are exciting, as vitamin D has the potential to be an inexpensive, safe and convenient treatment for people with MS. More research is needed to confirm these findings with larger groups of people and to help us understand the mechanisms for these effects, but the results are promising.”

Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of multiple sclerosis, and patients with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to experience disease disability and disease activity.

The study looked at 40 multiple sclerosis patients with relapsing symptoms who were given either 10,400 IUs or 800 IUs of vitamin D3 supplements daily over the course of six months. Patients with a severe vitamin D deficiency were not included in the study. Current recommendations for vitamin D is 600 IUs. Blood tests were conducted at the start of the study, and again at three and six months.

Researchers are still trying to determine the appropriate amount of vitamin D for multiple sclerosis patients but are suggesting anywhere between 40 to 60 ng/ml. Patients in the high dose group achieved the recommended amount, but those in the lower dose group did not.

Side effects did not vary between the patients and were quite minor. One person in each group experienced a relapse.

In the high dose group, patients saw a reduction in inflammatory T cells (IL-17+CD4+ and CD161+CD4+ cells) related to MS severity. As vitamin D levels rose to 18 ng/ml, for every additional 5 ng/ml increase, there was a decrease of one percent in IL-17+CD4+ cells. The low dose group did not see significant reductions in IL-17+CD4+ cells.

Calabresi added, “We hope that these changes in inflammatory T cell responses translate to a reduced severity of disease. Other clinical trials are underway to determine if that is the case.”

Connection between multiple sclerosis and vitamin D

Findings from the University of Oxford and the New Jersey Medical School revealed that proper vitamin D levels may have protective effects in preventing multiple sclerosis. Alternative findings from Maastricht University stated that vitamin D supplementation in multiple sclerosis patients may lessen frequency and severity of symptoms, but additional research is required to confirm such claim.

In multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system attacks the myelin, which is the protective coating around nerves. The benefits of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis may be attributed to the fact that vitamin D helps support the immune system.

Further support to the vitamin D and multiple sclerosis connection comes from cases of multiple sclerosis and sunlight. Higher rates of multiple sclerosis are seen in populations further away from the equator. These findings suggest that vitamin D offered by sunlight can offer protective effects in warding off multiple sclerosis.

Moreover, in African Americans and other colored ethnic groups, vitamin D levels should be closely monitored, as their darker skin reduces production of vitamin D from the sunlight.

If you are deficient in vitamin D, doctors recommend you take up to 50,000 IUs weekly for at least three months or until levels become normal once again. Over a long period of time, overexposure of vitamin D can be toxic, and so take vitamin D based on your doctor’s recommendations.

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