Vitamin D supplements may lower MS risk

January 14, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Vitamin D supplements may lower MS risk

Long-term data from two studies of female nurses suggest that use of vitamin D supplements, primarily in the form of multivitamins, may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

As part of the 20-year Nurses' Health Study and the 10-year Nurses' Health Study II, a total of 187,563 women provided information on diet and multivitamin use at baseline and every 4 years thereafter. During follow up, 173 cases of MS were documented.

Women who used the most vitamin D were 41 percent less likely to develop MS than women who used none. This apparent benefit held true even after adjusting for patient age, smoking history, and birth location.

Total vitamin D intake - from foods and supplements - also influenced MS risk. Women with the highest total intake were 33 percent less likely to develop MS than women with the lowest intake. In contrast, relying solely on food as the source of vitamin D didn't offer any protection against MS.

Previous studies have provided support for a possible protective effect of vitamin D by showing that individuals with MS tend to have low vitamin D levels in blood and that sun exposure (which increases vitamin D levels) is associated with a lower risk of MS. There is also evidence from studies on animals that vitamin D can prevent MS development and slow its progression.

The team suggests in their report that it may be important to assess whether vitamin D supplementation may slow the progression of MS.

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