Multiple sclerosis prognosis can be bleak, especially for progressive forms. Interferon is a common drug but does not always work. What if a vitamin could help?
It should come as no surprise that this vitamin would be vitamin D. We already know that it plays a role in the risk for development of multiple sclerosis. Two studies have highlighted just how important vitamin D’s role is.
- Those with higher sun exposure prior to age 20 had a particularly strong protection against the development of MS
- A study done on twins found that the risk of MS was 75% lower in any twins with greater sun exposure
It does seem that vitamin D plays its strongest role in the prevention of multiple sclerosis rather than for treatment, which makes it of critical importance for anyone afflicted with MS to make sure they supplement their kids with this this vitamin just to make sure they have all the protection they can.
However, the reason we believe it doesn’t play as strong of a role in treatment or management of MS may be merely because we’ve been asking the wrong questions.
This particular study looked at the interactions between the use of interferon beta (think Betaseron) and vitamin D levels (as measured by 25-hydroxyvitamin D).
The results are nothing short of shocking.
- Those using IFN-β got nearly three times high blood vitamin D levels per hour of sun exposure then persons not on therapy
- Higher vitamin D levels lowered the risk of a relapse only in patients on IFN-β
- IFN-β was ONLY protective against relapse among persons with higher vitamin D levels, lowering risk by 42%
- In those with lower levels of vitamin D, IFN-β use actually DOUBLED the risk of relapse
Let me clarify this. This study suggests that it is absolutely essential for anyone using interferon beta to be taking vitamin D. NOT doing so may actually cause the drug to flare up your MS rather than help. Additionally, this study may suggest that interferon may confer part of its benefits by raising vitamin D levels.
Did I say “Wow?”
This is potentially life-changing information for those whose MS is problematic enough to turn to interferon beta for treatment. Given the association of vitamin D with MS risk, it would already make sense for you to be taking vitamin D anyway, but if, after the publishing of this study, your neurologist does not strongly recommend vitamin D, then maybe it’s time to find a new one that stays current with the medical literature.
Sure–maybe a single study is not enough to take out a Superbowl add, but if your neurologist can write a prescription for a drug that costs at least $1,000 per month and has a long list of possible side effects but can’t recommend vitamin D at about $2 per month with virtually no side effects at safe levels, then it’s really time to reconsider your relationship.
So, if you have MS, whether or not you are using interferon, have you been told to take vitamin D?