Vitamin D Deficiency One Potential Controllable Risk Factor for Multiple Sclerosis Development

NOVEMBER 22, 2016
Adam Hochron

For many patients who are vitamin D deficient, there are oral supplements which can be found over the counter which can help bring their levels into the normal range. That and other steps can help play a role in lessening the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Other potential risk factors which patients can control, according to Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH, from the Harvard School of Medicine include cigarette smoking and adolescent obesity. Ascherio said by controlling those potential risks patients can help prevent developing multiple sclerosis later in life. As his research moves forward Ascherio said he is also looking at the potential ways vitamin D can help the treatment of those patients previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 

How much vitamin D should patients take?
Probably 3000 international units of vitamin D3 orally would bring virtually everyone within sufficient range, probably close to the optimal range of 25 (OH)D.
These are tablets that depending on the country you can buy in many places without a prescription. I’m not sure about the UK specifically but they’re usually available over the counter.
Are there safety concerns for this?
I think this level of vitamin D is quite safe for virtually everybody. There are a few exceptions, people with some rare disease, metabolic disease that may have a tendency to high calcium. But those are rare conditions that people who should consult with their GP if they have any rare disease.   
What does this mean for developing MS overall?
There are other risk factors, so even a sufficient vitamin D level does not eliminate the risk for MS. Probably it will cut it in half but it is still present, so other risk factors are cigarette smoking, and in young people adolescent obesity is a risk factor for MS. So those two are also preventable risk factors.
What is the future of your research?
We are looking now at working on people with MS to try and find the optimal level of vitamin D to prevent MS progression, particularly brain atrophy and disability and the possible interaction of vitamin D with different treatment.
We have previously demonstrated that patients with interferon Beta vitamin D is an important compliment to the treatment. There is a synergic activity so good vitamin D level improved the outcome on patients treated with interferon Beta, now we have to extend this observation to patients treated with other drugs. 

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