High Dose of Vitamin D Could Help People with MS

Thu, 01/07/2016 – 9:04am

Bevin Fletcher, Associate Editor

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New research says a high dose of vitamin D is safe and may be beneficial for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

“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 A. Calabresi, M.D. of Johns Hopkins University said in a prepared 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.”

The study, published online Dec. 30 in Neurology, looked at 40 people with relapsing-remitting MS.  Participants either received a high dose of 10,400 IU vitamin D supplements per day, or a lower dose of 800 IU per day for six months. According to the Mayo Clinic, the current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D for people aged 1 to 70 years is 600 IU.

According to the study, a dose of vitamin D3 may fix the body’s hyperactive immune response. 

Researchers tested participant’s blood three times to check the response in the immune system’s T cells and the amount of vitamin D in the blood.  Blood tests were administered at the beginning of the study and again after three and six months.  The body’s T cell response plays an important role in MS.

The percentage of T cells related to MS activity was reduced in people taking the high dose, while participants taking the low dose saw no changes in T cells.  According to a press release, when the increase in vitamin D in the blood was greater than 18 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), every 5 ng/ml increase in vitamin D led to a 1 percent decrease in the percentage of interleukin 17 T cells in the blood.

The target level of vitamin D needed to reduce disease activity in MS may be above 50 ng/ml, researchers noted.  Participants taking the higher dose reached that target level, but those taking the low dose did not.  For the general population, vitamin D levels above 30 ng/ml are considered sufficient.

There were no major side effects from the vitamin D3 supplements and side effects did not differ between the two groups.