A number of genetic and environmental factors influence whether a person will get MS. These factors may also impact the severity of the disease. Research is increasingly pointing to a reduced level of vitamin D in the blood as a risk factor for developing MS, and studies are underway to determine if vitamin D levels influence MS disease activity.
National MS Society drives vitamin D research
The National MS Society has led the way in this research, funding early pre-clinical studies, and now funding a clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation.
Should I have my blood levels of vitamin D checked?
Ellen Mowry, MD, MCR (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore) and investigators at several centers nationwide are recruiting 172 people with relapsing-remitting MS to compare the effectiveness of the current recommended amount of vitamin D supplementation versus high dose vitamin D supplementation at reducing MS disease activity, when added to standard therapy with glatiramer acetate (Copaxone®, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries). Read more
Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston) and his team have previously found that higher vitamin D intake and high blood levels of vitamin D are associated with a significantly lower risk of developing MS, and that smoking, and elevated levels of antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV, a herpesvirus known to cause infectious mononucleosis), are associated with an increased risk of MS. Now this expert group is evaluating blood samples and data from more than 1600 individuals at high risk for MS who were followed for progression to MS with clinical and MRI exams, to examine links among vitamin D levels, EBV infection, and cigarette smoking and their possible impact on early MS progression.
Harvey Checkoway, PhD, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Minnesota and the National Cancer Institute, is gathering information from responses to questionnaires provided by a group of over 60,000 radiologic technologists. The study is comparing UVB exposures (which increases vitamin D production) between an estimated 350 MS cases and approximately 700 participants without MS. The researchers are also collecting information about several other factors which might influence MS development, such as smoking and obesity. This research could shed some light on the relation between vitamin D levels and the development of MS, and how to prevent the disease.