Taking vitamin D supplements may positively influence the immune systems of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to researchers.
Although most MS patients have a normal life span, the disease, which causes the immune system to attack the body's own cells as "foreign," causes vision changes and muscle weakness in its victims. MS may progress steadily, or acute attacks may be followed by a temporary remission of symptoms.
Vitamin D status affects chemicals that modulate the immune system called cytokines, and these changes may benefit patients with MS.
The researchers drew their conclusions after analyzing samples from 10 MS patients who took a supplement of 25 micrograms (units) of vitamin D daily for 6 months. The patients showed increased levels of vitamin D in their blood, as well as a change in cytokine levels. But the investigators note that the study has not been in progress long enough to observe changes in the clinical symptoms of the participating MS patients.
The results were not completely unexpected as the investigators had seen similar results in an animal model of MS. Doctors should be aware of the detrimental effects of vitamin D insufficiency for their MS patients and make sure they are vitamin D adequate.
The study findings are supported by the fact that the number of cases of MS is nearly zero near the equator and increases with latitude in both hemispheres. The increased sunlight near the equator allows the body to produce more vitamin D, and may theoretically reduce the incidence of MS.
However, Cantorna also pointed out that vitamin D at high doses is toxic. "MS patients should not take large amounts of vitamin D supplements. They should increase their vitamin D intake under the supervision of their doctors," she warned.
The current recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 400 micrograms (units) per day.
Sources of vitamin D include adequate exposure to sunlight and cod liver oil.
Experimental Biology 2001 Conference in Orlando, Florida April 6, 2001
Well this is simple enough. It appears clear that MS patients improved on doses of vitamin D that are 2.5 time that of the RDA, since 25 micrograms is equal to 1,000 units of vitamin D. It would seem reasonable to have those with MS have regular sun exposure on their skin so they can produce vitamin D. For most of us though there is about six months of the year or more when this is not possible.
Most people are deficient in vitamin D, but if you decide to use vitamin D you will want to be very careful about testing your levels as it is easy to overdose.
In these cases, my favorite current source of vitamin D is a whole food product - cod liver oil. No, this is not the same one many remember as disgusting tasting. That cod liver oil usually tasted bad because it was rancid. Processing of cod liver oil has improved considerably since those days.