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Vitamin D Treats & Prevents MS

Evidence continues to mount showing that a little vitamin D can do a lot more than build strong bones. A new study indicating that women who get doses typically found in daily multivitamin supplements--of at least 400 international units--are 40 percent less likely to develop multiple sclerosis compared with those not taking over-the-counter supplements. This is amazing as we now know that 400 units a day is actually 90 percent lower than the ideal dose, yet it still provided amazing reduction of nearly 50 percent of MS risk.

We've known for some time that vitamin D can affect function of the immune system, which could explain why it seems beneficial to both of these autoimmune conditions. In animal studies, vitamin D has been shown to suppress the autoimmune response in rats with a disorder very similar to MS. Other recent studies link vitamin D deficiency to a greater risk of other ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, unexplained muscle and joint pain, and various forms of cancer. As with MS and other autoimmune diseases, the secret may be in how this nutrient affects cell activity. We need adequate amounts of vitamin D to keep cell growth and activity in check. When the body is deficient in this crucial nutrient--best known for coming from sunlight--cells can go haywire, become overly active or multiply too quickly. These results are not too surprising though as it's been well-known that if you live at a higher latitude, where there's less sun exposure, you're at a higher risk of developing MS. Conversely, if you live in a sunny climate where vitamin D can easily be absorbed year-round from sunlight for your first 10 years, it imprints on you a decreased MS risk that can last a lifetime.

If you or anyone you know has MS, it is imperative that they have their vitamin D blood levels checked to get the levels between 45 and 50 with a combination of sun exposure and supplemental vitamin D. Just be aware that although cod liver oil is terrific for a large number of reasons, it is rarely sufficient to optimize someone's vitamin D level in the winter, even if you live in Florida.

Neurology January, 2004

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