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High vitamin D may prevent multiple sclerosis

By David Liu, PHD

Thursday Nov 01, 2012 ( -- A study published recently in Neurology suggests that exposure to the sun or taking vitamin D supplements may help reduce risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

T.F. Runia of Department of Neurology, MS Centre ErasMS, Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and colleagues found multiple sclerosis patients with higher serum vitamin D levels experienced fewer exacerbations than those with low levels.

In multiple sclerosis, autoimmune responses affect the myelin-producing cells of the central nervous system. Autoimmune responses are mediated by immune cells called T cells, which are modulated by the biologically active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and multiple sclerosis is thus prevented, according to early studies.

The current study examined if 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25-OH-D) levels are correlated with exacerbation risk in 73 patients with relapsing -remitting multiple sclerosis. Blood samples were analyzed for 25(OH)D every eight weeks.

During a mean 1.7-year follow-up, 58 patients experienced a total of 139 exacerbation events. Multiple sclerosis patients with higher serum vitamin D were less likely to suffer exacerbation, the study found.

"With each doubling of the serum 25-OH-D concentration the exacerbation rate decreased by 27%," the researchers reported. Runia et al. concluded "higher vitamin D levels are associated with decreased exacerbation risk in relapsing-remitting MS suggests a beneficial effect of vitamin D on disease course in MS."