Vitamin D as an early predictor of multiple sclerosis activity and progression. Low vitamin D levels are common and can be easily and safely increased by oral supplementation
by S. C.
“Because low vitamin D levels are common and can be easily and safely increased by oral supplementation, these findings may contribute to better outcomes for many MS patients,” said lead author Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at HSPH.
The study will appear online January 20, 2014 in JAMA Neurology.
MS is a central nervous system disease that causes problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, feeling, and thinking. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that roughly 2.5 million people in the world have MS.
Previous research indicated a connection between low levels of vitamin D and risk of developing MS or having MS symptoms worsen, but those studies included patients with longstanding MS whose vitamin D levels could partly be a consequence, not a predictor, of disease severity. The new study looked at vitamin D levels among patients at the time of their first symptoms of the disease.
Researchers analyzed data from 465 MS patients from 18 European countries, Israel, and Canada who enrolled in 2002 and 2003 in the BENEFIT (Betaseron in Newly Emerging Multiple Sclerosis for Initial Treatment) trial, which was aimed at comparing the effectiveness of early versus late interferon beta-1b in treating the disease. The scientists looked at how the patients’ vitamin D levels—which were measured at the onset of their symptoms and at regular intervals over a 24-month period—correlated with their disease symptoms and progression over a period of five years.