Vitamin D May Benefit Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Study results show that patients with multiple sclerosis may benefit from taking vitamin D3.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients may benefit from taking vitamin D3, according to findings published in Neurology.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine observed 40 MS patients in order to test the safety profile and characterize the immunologic effects of high and low dose cholecalciferol supplements in the patients. The patients were randomized to receive 10,400 IU or 800 IU cholecalciferol daily for 6 months, with assessments performed at baseline, 3, and 6 months. The study authors excluded patients with severe vitamin D deficiency for this analysis.

A press release detailing the study explained that low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of developing MS. They added that people with both MS and low vitamin D levels are at the greatest risk for greater disability and disease activity. Plus, the study authors acknowledged that the current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D3 supplements is 600 IU.

The high dose group demonstrated increased vitamin D levels from baseline to the 6 month evaluation, though the low dose showed increases too. There were adverse events present in the groups, but they were not very different. There were also two relapses, one from each treatment arm.

“These results are exciting, as vitamin D has the potential to be an inexpensive, safe and convenient treatment for people with MS,” study author Peter Calabresi, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center and professor neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explained in the statement. “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.”

Researchers still don’t know what the target level of vitamin D in the blood should be, though it has been suggested that levels between 40-60 ng/mL would be appropriate. The low-dose group in this study did not reach the target.

High dose patients experienced a reduction in the percentage of inflammatory T cells related to MS severity, cells calls IL-17-CD4+ and CD161+CD4+. When vitamin D levels increased over the baseline levels greater than 18 ng/ml, every additional 5 ng/ml increase in vitamin D led to a 1 percent decrease in the percentage of IL-17-CD4+ T cells in the blood, the press release continued. The low dose patients did not experience this change.

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