Research continues on the use of vitamin D3 in preventing and treating multiple sclerosis (MS). Studies are promising. The Congress of European Committee for the Treatment and Research of Multiple Sclerosis reported that vitamin D is an important environmental factor in the prevention and treatment of multiple sclerosis. Dr. George Ebers reported that a significant decrease occurred in the risk of developing multiple sclerosis when people moved from the United Kingdom to Australia. However, he went on to state that in Tasmania, the far southernmost Australian state, the rate of multiple sclerosis was six times higher than in Queensland, Australia. It was his opinion that due to less sunshine throughout the year the majority of people in Tasmania are unable to spend as much time in the sun, which is the body’s natural way of producing vitamin D3.
What is the Best Source for Vitamin D3
Dr. Ebers reported that information from Norway revealed that in northern parts of the country where the sun may be very limited in the winter there is a low rate of MS. It was felt this was due to the large amount of fish consumed. He stated that people living in this area had a higher vitamin D3 intake than those living in Scotland which is south of Norway and has more sunlight. It was his opinion that supplementation with vitamin D3 combined with sunlight is an important factor in protecting people from MS.
He also reported that the Institute of Medicine recommends vitamin D3 supplementation of 4000 IU per day for United States adults. It was his opinion that the majority of people are under optimum levels of the intake of vitamin D3. He went on to say that, the statistics reported on MS reveal it is less prevalent in the United States than northern Europe. It was his opinion that taking 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day is safe and will not adversely affect the function of the kidneys.
Who Should Take Vitamin D3?
Dr. Ebers was of the opinion that everyone should be taking Vitamin D3 supplements, and that this is a far better strategy than screening everyone for low levels of vitamin D3. This is an inexpensive method to help in the prevention of MS and would be easier than trying to educate everyone to increase his or her intake. People living in the far northern and far southern hemispheres should take supplementation the year around. The use of sunscreens blocks the necessary sunlight needed to generate vitamin D3 in the body.
How Did the Opposing Conferees Respond?
There were several comments on the feasibility of clinical trials. Studies are underway in France and Australia regarding vitamin D3 supplementation. Even those skeptics stated they agreed with Dr. Ebers for the most part, but there were reasons against universal vitamin D supplementation. One doctor stated there is insufficient evidence of long-term safety and uncertainty of response to dosage given. He went on to state that fewer than one in 200 people will ever get MS in the United States. His quote was “so if we supplement 200 people, there is no benefit on MS risk for 199”. This comment is shortsighted and does not consider the entire body requirements. Vitamin D3 is essential for many other body functions other than trying to prevent multiple sclerosis or treating the disease.
“Supplementation with vitamin D3 is inexpensive and whenever possible should be taken by people in the far northern and far southern hemispheres. Why take the chance?”
Other conferees commented that vitamin D from the sun is available almost everywhere and when people are in the sunshine they are receiving their appropriate doses of the vitamin. This could skew any of the studies that are underway. One conferee, Dr. Montalban, states in regard to taking Vitamin D3 supplementation, “I would say it is safe, is probably effective, and I haven’t got time to wait for clinical trials to be done.” Dr. Ebers summarized this discussion nicely when he said, “it’s all very nice to have a randomized trial, but they are not the be all and end all. If we need a randomized clinical trial, then we still wouldn’t recognize that smoking caused lung cancer and contaminated water caused cholera.”
The cost of Vitamin D3 supplementation is far less expensive than the active treatment of MS. Your goal should be to do what you can to prevent the disease.