Vitamin D may treat multiple sclerosis

Taking a high dose of vitamin D could be an inexpensive and easy way to treat people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder that affects the brain and spinal chord, suggests promising new research.

“These results are exciting, as vitamin D has the potential to be an inexpensive, safe and convenient treatment for people with multiple sclerosis,” said study author Peter Calabresi from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.

Low levels of vitamin D in the blood are tied to an increased risk of developing MS and are more likely to have greater disability and more disease activity.

The current recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 international units.

For the study, 40 people with relapsing-remitting MS received either 10,400 international units or 800 international units of vitamin D supplements per day for six months.

Patients with severe vitamin D deficiency were not included in the study.

Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis

Blood tests at the start of the study and again at three and six months measured the amount of vitamin D in the blood and the response in the immune system’s T cells, which play a key role in MS.

While researchers are still determining the optimal level of vitamin D in the blood for people with MS, a suggested range of 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) has been proposed as a target.

Participants taking the high dose of vitamin D reached levels within the proposed target, whereas the group taking the low dose did not reach the target.

The people taking the high dose had a reduction in the percentage of inflammatory T cells related to MS severity.

Side effects from the vitamin supplements were minor and were not different between the people taking the high dose and the people taking the low dose, the study found.

The study was published online in the journal of Neurology.

Depression may raise risk of Parkinson’s disease

People who suffer with depression may have an increased risk of going on to develop Parkinson’s disease, a new study suggests.

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease, the symptoms of which include tremors, stiffness and slow movement.

Previous research has suggested a link between these two conditions so Swedish researchers decided to investigate further. They looked at more than 140,000 people over the age of 50 who had been diagnosed with depression between 1987 and 2012. These were matched with over 421,000 control participants and all were followed up for up to 26 years.

While the overall number of people to go on to develop Parkinson’s was low, the study found that those with depression were more likely to develop the neurological disease than those without depression.

The researchers noted that the risk of developing Parkinson’s decreased over time. Those with depression were more than three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s in the year after the study started compared to those without depression.

However 15 to 25 years into the study, people with depression were around 50% more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those without depression.


Meanwhile, the study also noted that those with more serious cases of depression were more likely to develop Parkinson’s.

Those who had been hospitalised with depression five or more times were 40% more likely to develop Parkinson’s compared to those who had only been hospitalised once.

Those who had been hospitalised at all for depression were also found to be 3.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who had been treated for depression as outpatients.

The results stood even when other depression-related conditions were taken into account, such as alcohol abuse, stroke and traumatic brain injury.

“We saw this link between depression and Parkinson’s disease during a timespan of more than two decades, so depression may be a very early symptom of Parkinson’s disease or a risk factor for the disease,” commented the team from Umeå University.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Neurology.