Study shows links between Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis randomly attacks the brain and spinal cord. Image: Shutterstock.

More people suffer from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) per capita in Tasmania than any other Australian State.

Between 1951 and 2009 the incidence of MS in Tasmania nearly doubled. A new Menzies study at the University of Tasmania has suggested that higher vitamin D levels are associated with a lower relapse risk for MS sufferers.

MS is a chronic degenerative disease that randomly attacks the central nervous system and can interfere with the nerve impulse transmissions through the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. MS is also extremely unpredictable, as episodes can occur at varying times and affecting different areas of the central nervous system.

Recurring episodes can lead to the appearance of scars in the central nervous system, caused by the breakdown of myelin- the insulating material that covers the nerves. There is no cure, although treatments that ease some of the symptoms and modify the course of the disease are available.

The Southern Tasmanian Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Study involved 145 participants with relapsing-remitting MS from 2002 to 2005. Menzies’ Associate Professor Bruce Taylor, the Chief Investigator for the study, said there is substantial evidence that increased exposure to the sun, and hence vitamin D, are associated with a lower risk of a first attack.

Associate Professor Taylor said in the press release “However, few factors have yet been identified that cause the onset of relapses in people already diagnosed with MS.”

The study, which has been published in the international journal Annals of Neurology, demonstrated that people are more likely to have a relapse if they had low vitamin D levels. “We found that higher levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced likelihood of a relapse in MS.”

“The study demonstrates that for each 10 nanamoles per litre ((nmol/l) increase in serum vitamin D dosage, there was up to a 12 per cent reduction in the likelihood of a relapse. Clinically, raising vitamin D levels by 50nmol/l could halve the hazard of a relapse.”

“These findings provide strong support for randomised clinical trials of vitamin D-based therapies for treating relapses in MS sufferers.”

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