Vitamin D and MS: Is there any connection?

content provided by mayoclinic.com

Vitamin D and MS: Is there any connection?

Question

Is there any proof that vitamin D supplements can prevent MS or keep symptoms of MS from worsening?

Barbara
New York

Answer

Several studies have suggested that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may have a protective effect and lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). Other studies suggest that for people who already have MS, vitamin D may lessen the frequency and severity of their symptoms. More research is needed to assess these findings.

When a person has MS, his or her immune system attacks the coating that protects the nerve cells. Research suggests that a connection between vitamin D and MS could be tied to the positive effects vitamin D has on the immune system.

The link between vitamin D and MS is strengthened by the association between sunlight and the risk of MS. The farther away from the equator a person lives, the higher the risk of MS. Sunlight is the body's most efficient source for vitamin D — suggesting that exposure to sunlight may offer protection from MS.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D a day for adults ages 19 to 70. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs a day for adults age 71 and older.

Some doctors question whether these levels are adequate and think that getting more vitamin D would benefit many people. However, the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults avoid taking more than 4,000 IUs a day.

Very large doses of vitamin D over an extended period can result in toxicity. Signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, constipation, poor appetite, weakness and weight loss. In addition, vitamin D toxicity can lead to elevated levels of calcium in your blood, which can result in kidney stones.

If you're concerned that you're getting too little — or too much — vitamin D, talk with your doctor about what's right for you.

Last Updated: 2010-12-04
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use

 

Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version