A new study published in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine has added to the mounting evidence that a lack of vitamin D may increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Analyzing data on over 14 thousand people suffering from the disease and around 24 thousand without it, the researchers found that people with a genetic tendency to vitamin D deficiency were twice as likely to develop the neurological disorder. With vitamin D insufficiency now known to be widespread and supplementation being both safe and cost-effective, the researchers say their findings may have important public health implications.
A disease in which the myelin sheaths – the insulating covers of the body’s nerve fibres – are damaged, multiple sclerosis is believed to affect more than 2 million people worldwide. Most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, the course of the illness can take several forms. In relapsing-remitting forms of the disease symptoms tend to appear, disappear and then return again; in progressive forms they build up over time. Symptoms are wide-ranging and vary between patients but can include visual disturbances; muscle weakness; coordination and balance problems; sensations such as numbness, prickling pains or “pins and needles”; and memory problems. In some people the disease results in sufferers losing the ability to write, speak or walk.
Previous studies have already demonstrated an association between levels of vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. For patients in the early stages of the illness, low levels have been found to strongly predict disease severity and hasten its progression. Until now however, the question as to whether low vitamin D is a direct cause of the disease, or simply associated with it due to other factors, has not been answered. By specifically looking at people with a genetic predisposition to vitamin D deficiency, the PLOS Medicine study therefore gets around the possibility that people who already have the condition may tend to stay indoors more, thus resulting in the levels of vitamin D in their bodies being lowered through infrequent exposure to sunlight.
While the researchers qualify their findings by saying it may be too much to expect therapeutic vitamin D alone to treat or reverse pre-existing multiple sclerosis, it is notable that other micronutrients such as coenzyme Q10, biotin, lipoic acid, vitamin B12, L-carnitine, polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E have already been shown to be helpful in controlling it. As such, rather than patients having to heed the advice of the large pharma-influenced multiple sclerosis charities and place their hopes in drug research, the evidence clearly suggests that micronutrients offer a safe and effective alternative.
The greatest impediment to progress in the control of neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis is the pharmaceutical ‘business-with-disease’, for whom their cure and elimination would result in the termination of a multi-billion dollar revenue stream. In this respect the pharma industry’s close relationship with the mass media, which depends on it as a source of advertising income, is one of the key reasons why TV and newspaper reports on vitamins tend to discourage patients from using supplements. Increasingly, however, with information on nutritional and Cellular Medicine freely available on the internet, patients are resorting to researching the facts for themselves. For this reason, how quickly the implications of the PLOS Medicine study are acted upon may well depend not upon politicians or doctors but on multiple sclerosis sufferers, and those at risk from the disease, taking matters into their own hands.