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Higher than usual vitamin D could benefit MS patients

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vitamin D and MS

Vitamin D deficiency has long been linked to a person's chances of developing multiple sclerosis. Researchers recently tested 40 people with MS given higher than normal doses of vitamin D to see what effect the hormone had on T cells related to MS activity. They discovered vitamin D could help decrease MS activity.


The researchers may have uncovered an inexpensive and well tolerated option to help patients with MS. Findings from the American Academy of Neurology highlight results of a study showing higher levels of vitamin D in the blood stream lowers T cell activity associated with multiple sclerosis.

The study

The small study looked at vitamin D levels among participants before, at 3 months and at 6 months among people with relapsing MS.

The study that was published in the December. 30, 2015 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology was able to show vitamin D levels above that recommended for the general population was associated with decrease T cell activity.

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Increased T cell activity has been associated with increased MS activity. People with low levels of vitamin D are believed to be at higher risk of developing the disease.

Study participants received either 10,400 IU or 800 IU of vitamin D3 supplements daily for six months. The daily recommended dose is 600 IU per day.

Highlights and findings from the study include:

  • Evidence of decreased T cell activity among the group given the higher dose of vitamin D
  • Vitamin D was well tolerated, with only minor side effects and no difference between the two groups
  • One person in each group had a relapse
  • An optimal level of vitamin D for treating multiple sclerosis is not yet established.
  • The finding suggests levels above 50 ng/ml may be necessary to reduce disease activity
  • The study group given the lower dose of vitamin D did not reach blood levels of 50 ng/ml

The researchers also saw a 1 percent decrease in the percentage of interleukin 17 T cells in the blood for every 5 ng/ml increase in vitamin D.

Peter A. Calabresi, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology called the finding "exciting" in a media release. "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.."