Posted on Jun 01, 2009, 1 p.m.
By gary clark
Sufferers of multiple sclerosis may be able to safely reduce the incidence of relapses by taking large doses of vitamin D, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto finds.
Dr. Jodie Burton, a neurologist from the University of Toronto and her colleagues conducted a study involving patients with a form of multiple sclerosis (MS) called relapsing-remitting MS in which new symptoms can appear and past symptoms resurface. Two groups of patients were given differing amount of vitamin D. One group was given escalating doses of vitamin D3 daily for six months, with up to 40,000 international units (IU) given daily. For the following six months, the dosage was gradually lowered, with the group averaging 14,000 IU daily over the full year. Another group was allowed to take up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day. On average, the second group took 1,000 IU daily, which is the amount recommended by many MS specialists.
Of those taking the higher doses, only 14 percent suffered relapses of their disease - this compared to 40 percent of patients taking the lower doses. In addition, those in the higher dose group suffered 41 percent fewer relapses than they had the year prior to the study, compared to the lower dose group, which experienced just 17 percent fewer relapses in the year prior. One of the patients in the study testing the safety of the high dose had not experienced a relapse in two-and-a-half years, and he continues to take 6,000 IU daily, which he believes will stop his MS attacks from returning. He reports having no side effects, including no effect on calcium level abnormalities.
"To me, it is extremely intriguing. Vitamin D is safe, it's cheap, and if we could show it helps patients with MS, it would be a huge step forward in making their lives easier," says Dr. Paul O'Connor of the MS Society of Canada, who also emphasizes that the results are preliminary and advises MS patients to talk to their doctors before beginning vitamin D supplements. "Too much of the vitamin can be harmful for people with certain medical conditions such as kidney disease," he notes.
According to Dr. Burton and her team, proteins activated by vitamin D attach to a certain type of DNA, called DRB1-1501, which is believed to cause the disease. They believe that vitamin D reduces inflammation and stops the immune system from attacking its own cells, which, in turn, helps ensure that genes function properly in the body.
News Release: Vitamin D may offer hope to sufferers of MS www.ctv.ca May 25, 2009