It has taken a long time to get the first studies going on vitamin D3 supplementation for multiple sclerosis. Given all the preliminary evidence we have of its likely effectiveness from laboratory, animal, epidemiological, genetic, case-control, and clinical intervention studies, its ease of administration, and how cheap and easily available it is, you would have thought that this potentially highly effective treatment for MS would have had scientists everywhere scrambling to be the first to prove its benefit.
But because it is not patentable and no-one stands to make anything much out of its sales, the attention has unfortunately been firmly focused on the expensive new generation of disease-modifying drugs.
Now finally we have some solid data, albeit from a very small study not adequately powered or conducted over a long enough time period to definitively answer questions about its clinical benefit. Further, given the expense of performing randomised controlled trials with MRI follow up, this trial was funded by a drug company and naturally they wished to investigate the additional benefit of vitamin D3 over their drug, so that if found beneficial, it would not supersede their drug, but rather be used in combination.
That said, the study provides us with some solid evidence that vitamin D3 reduces disease activity in MS. While it was too small (66 people with MS randomised to treatment or placebo) and too short (12 months) to really show much clinical difference in the people in the trial, it did show a marked reduction in new MRI T1 contrast-enhancing brain lesions in the group with the vitamin D3 supplementation.
Unfortunately, there were a few problems with the study. They used a very low dose of 20,000IU a week, or under 3,000IU a day.That only raised the people’s vitamin D levels in their blood to around 100nmol/L. As we have previously argued on this website, we should be aiming at a level of 150nmol/L or higher to achieve optimal immune effects, based on all the previous studies.
Additionally, they did not use a one-off megadose to get people’s levels up quickly, so the participants spent several months at the beginning of the study with low vitamin D levels that were gradually coming up, so that at six months 76% of the treated group had levels over 85nmol/L, and by 12 months 84% had reached this level.
Nevertheless, this is good news. As we have been arguing for over a decade, while we await more definitive studies, keep taking vitamin D3 supplements. They are very likely to be helpful in reducing disease activity. And they have a host of very helpful side effects too, in reducing the likelihood of depression, osteoporosis, various cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and probably several other Western diseases.
This study, described as promising by the authors, shows that brain inflammatory disease activity is reduced with the addition of relatively small doses vitamin D3 to standard interferon therapy for MS.