Vitamin D Offers Hope for Multiple SclerosisSeptember 2016
By Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, DABIHM
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and affects millions of people around the world. There is not yet a cure for MS.
As an autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks its own healthy tissues and cells, MS destroys myelin, a substance that surrounds nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord1 much as insulating material wraps around electrical wire.
By destroying myelin, MS damages the nerves and leaves them unable to send electrical impulses throughout the body. This can make everything from walking to seeing to breathing an arduous if not impossible task for those affected.
While there are a few medications that treat some of the symptoms, none of them can cure or stop the disease, and they can produce side effects.2,3 Annual increases in the prices of these drugs have made many of them unattainable by some patients desperate for any respite from this debilitating illness.3
An array of new data indicates that proper supplementation with low-cost vitamin D can induce a meaningful beneficial effect on multiple sclerosis patients.
According to the latest research, vitamin D offers hope for those suffering from multiple sclerosis. Ample data show that low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of developing MS,4-7 and the vitamin has been shown to be effective in patients by reducing MS-caused inflammation. Studies show that having adequate levels of vitamin D can not only decrease the risk of developing MS, but can also delay its progression.4,7-10
In addition, vitamin D has been shown to be useful for both preventing and treating a number of other debilitating neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.11-16
In this article, you will learn what vitamin D blood levels are required to ensure adequate protection, and how much you need to take in order to achieve these levels.
Because vitamin D is very affordable and safe, no one should suffer the potential adverse consequences of having low levels of this crucial nutrient.
Vitamin D Slows the Progression of MS
A study in JAMA Neurology examined the possible link between vitamin D levels and MS disease progression in 1,482 men and women with relapsing-remitting MS (the most common form of MS) who were being treated with a common MS prescription medication (interferon beta-1b).7
Over an 18-month period, researchers measured vitamin D blood levels, conducted multiple brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to assess MS progression, and monitored the relapse rate and progression using the Expanded Disability Status Scale, a method to quantify impairments of ambulation, activity levels, and ability to communicate.
The researchers determined that vitamin D had a significant effect on MS. They reported that those patients with the highest levels of vitamin D (greater than 40 ng/mL) had the lowest rates of new MS lesions.
In addition, a study published in JAMA found that low circulating vitamin D levels are associated with the risk of developing MS.4 Specifically, they found that men and women with low levels of vitamin D (<25 ng/mL) had a much higher risk of developing MS when compared with those who had high levels (>40 ng/mL).
Even more recent studies have shown that optimal vitamin D levels can help slow MS activity, delay disease progression, and delay conversion of MS to secondary-progressive MS, a deadlier and more debilitating form of the disease.9,10
In a 2014 article in JAMA Neurology, researchers measured vitamin D levels in patients who had suspected MS over a 2-year period.9 What they found was nothing short of amazing. The patients who had an average increase in their serum vitamin D of 20 ng/mL in the first 12 months of the study experienced the following improvements over the 5-year length of the study:
- 57% lower rate of new active brain lesions seen on MRI,
- 57% lower relapse rate, and a
- 25% lower yearly increase in brain lesion volume.
Lastly, a 2015 study on patients with relapsing-remitting MS examined whether or not vitamin D levels could predict conversion to secondary-progressive MS.10 In this 3-year study, researchers showed that those patients who had low vitamin D levels (2-14 ng/mL) had a 5.9 times increased risk of shifting into the secondary-progressive form of MS when compared with people who had high levels (23-52 ng/mL).
Together, these studies make it clear that vitamin D can not only decrease the risk of developing MS, but can also delay its progression in those who already have it.
Vitamin D and Neurodegenerative Diseases
In addition to preventing and helping to treat MS, other studies show that vitamin D plays a critical role in preventing other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes progressive and debilitating tremors and difficulty moving. While there is no cure for this disease, recent research has shown that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels may offer a way to prevent it.
In a 2014 paper in the journal Neurological Sciences, researchers did a meta-analysis of studies potentially linking low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of Parkinson’s.11 After reviewing seven observational studies that included 1,008 patients and 4,536 controls, the authors concluded in no uncertain terms that “low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of PD (Parkinson’s disease).”
A 2015 paper added proof to this powerful statement.12 In this large meta-analysis including 5,690 patients with Parkinson’s and 21,251 controls, the researchers determined that patients with low vitamin D levels (<20 ng/mL) had a two-fold increase in the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Taking it one step further, they also found that vitamin D supplementation was associated with a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s by a significant 38%.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and has become a 21st century epidemic among America’s aging population. While expensive prescription pharmaceuticals can offer only minimal help in treating the symptoms, evidence shows that maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can provide a safe and effective way to protect against this disease.
A paper in the journal Neurology followed 1,658 men and women, aged 69-79, over 5.6 years to determine if there was an association between vitamin D levels and Alzheimer’s. The researchers found that people with severe vitamin D deficiency (<10 ng/mL) had a 122% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. For individuals that were deficient (greater than or equal to 10 ng/mL to less than 20 ng/mL) there was a 51% increased risk.15 This led the authors to conclude: “our studies confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Another study evaluated the relationship between vitamin D and cognitive function in 2,777 men and women aged 70-79.17 The researchers studied these men and women over a 4-year period, measuring both their vitamin D levels and cognitive performance using multiple tests. The results were unequivocal. Those people with low vitamin D levels (this time, defined as <30 ng/mL) had worse mental functioning and greater decline in their cognition when compared to those with higher levels of vitamin D.
To obtain high enough blood levels of vitamin D to help protect against cognitive decline, it is important to check blood levels of vitamin D and
supplement with 5,000 to 8,000 IU of vitamin D daily depending on individual blood levels. Life Extension suggests that optimal blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D using LabCorp’s measuring standard are
between 50 to 80 ng/mL.
Vitamin D is a widely available nutrient essential for optimal health. Receptors for this essential compound have been found in almost every cell in the body.
Vitamin D has been shown to be associated with both preventing and slowing the progression of a number of debilitating neurodegenerative diseases,
including MS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) set by the government, 600-800 IU a day, is woefully inadequate to achieve the optimal levels of vitamin D in the body that can help ward off these diseases.
With most people deficient in vitamin D—even if they’re taking the RDA—more and more experts recognize that supplementing with at least 5,000 to 8,000 IU is crucial to stem a number of deadly diseases. It should be taken with the heaviest meal of the day to increase absorption.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- Available at: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1146199-overview#showall. Accessed May 31, 2016.
- Gohil K. Multiple Sclerosis: Progress, but No Cure. P T. 2015;40(9):604-5.
- Hartung DM, Bourdette DN, Ahmed SM, et al. The cost of multiple sclerosis drugs in the US and the pharmaceutical industry: Too big to fail? Neurology. 2015;84(21):2185-92.
- Munger KL, Levin LI, Hollis BW, et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis. Jama. 2006;296(23):2832-8.
- Duan S, Lv Z, Fan X, et al. Vitamin D status and the risk of multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Lett. 2014;570:108-13.
- Harandi AA, Harandi AA, Pakdaman H, et al. Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. Iran J Neurol. 2014;13(1):1-6.
- Fitzgerald KC, Munger KL, Kochert K, et al. Association of Vitamin D Levels With Multiple Sclerosis Activity and Progression in Patients Receiving Interferon Beta-1b. JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(12):1458-65.
- Simpson S, Jr., Taylor B, Blizzard L, et al. Higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with lower relapse risk in multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 2010;68(2):193-203.
- Ascherio A, Munger KL, White R, et al. Vitamin D as an early predictor of multiple sclerosis activity and progression. JAMA Neurol. 2014;71(3):306-14.
- Muris AH, Rolf L, Broen K, et al. A low vitamin D status at diagnosis is associated with an early conversion to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015.
- Lv Z, Qi H, Wang L, et al. Vitamin D status and Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurol Sci. 2014;35(11):1723-30.
- Shen L, Ji HF. Associations between Vitamin D Status, Supplementation, Outdoor Work and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease: A Meta-Analysis Assessment. Nutrients. 2015;7(6):4817-27.
- Balion C, Griffith LE, Strifler L, et al. Vitamin D, cognition, and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurology. 2012;79(13):1397-405.
- Schlogl M, Holick MF. Vitamin D and neurocognitive function. Clin Interv Aging. 2014;9:559-68.
- Littlejohns TJ, Henley WE, Lang IA, et al. Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology. 2014;83(10):920-8.
- Banerjee A, Khemka VK, Ganguly A, et al. Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s Disease: Neurocognition to Therapeutics. Int J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;2015:192747.
- Wilson VK, Houston DK, Kilpatrick L, et al. Relationship between 25-hydroxyvitamin D and cognitive function in older adults: the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(4):636-41.