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Vitamin D may be beneficial for Multiple Sclerosis

Category: Autoimmune Diseases

A new study published in the Annals of Neurology, led by Ellen Mowry, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University, found that lower levels of vitamin D may be linked to an increased risk of developing lesions associated with multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is an autoimmune disease in which the myelin sheath around nerve cells in the brain, optic nerve or spinal cord are attacked by the immune system, reports the National Institutes of Health. This results in slower or completely stopped nerve signals. Symptoms include muscle tremors, bladder issues, problems with speech, hearing and sight, along with sexual dysfunction and numbness, tingling or pain.

The study analyzed 469 MS patients who were involved in a five-year study at the University of California, San Francisco. The subjects underwent annual blood testing and MRIs to look for lesions and other active areas of the disease. The results showed that the lower vitamin D levels were, the more lesions patients had.

Mowry noted that there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove vitamin D can help combat MS.

"As practitioners, we want to make sure we apply the best scientific evidence and I don't think we have enough evidence yet to definitively recommend our patients take vitamin D supplements," she said.

Dennis Bourdette, M.D., chairman of the Department of Neurology and director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center at Oregon Health and Science University, told Everyday Health that there is strong evidence that low vitamin D levels can exacerbate the symptoms of the disease, but what hasn't been shown is how increasing vitamin D will affect patients with MS.

Vitamin D sources and benefits
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), vitamin D is fat-soluble and is only present in a few foods, such as salmon, tuna and mackeral. Many times, the source notes, foods like milk are fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and a deficiency of it can cause misshapen or brittle bones. Getting the proper amount of vitamin D can help prevent rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. It also promotes cell growth, bolsters immune system functioning and reduces inflammation, the ODS reports.

The source also notes that many people get part of their vitamin D intake from exposure to the sun, and it can also be found in mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light.

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