Monday, 20 January 2014

Big numbers

This is a research post, but bear with me, it is really interesting and promising. 

The Harvard School of Public Health has put out a new study that followed people with MS for 5 years. Stay with me, it'll get interesting, I swear. It found that people with increases of a certain amount of average serum vitamin D levels (50 nmol/L, to be exact) within the first 12 months after diagnosis showed the following benefits:
  • ·      57% lower risk of relapse
  • ·      57% lower risk of new active brain lesions
  • ·      25% lower yearly increase in T2 lesion volume, and
  • ·      0.41% lower yearly loss in brain volume from months 12 to 60

Those numbers are amazing. 57% lower risk of relapse is significantly higher than even the disease-modifying drugs are noted at.

The study had 465 participants and started off on a completely different foot – measuring beta interferon efficacy. But, with a great bit of luck (or planning, I’m unsure which) all participants had at least one measurement of their serum vitamin D levels during the first year of study. The team then followed participants through a combination of MRI scans and neurologic examinations for 5 years in total.

What’s really key here is that the researchers were not supplementing vitamin D, they were only measuring it as part of the pool of blood samples they were collecting to track the efficacy of the drug…nothing at all to do with the vitamin D side of things.

So, why is this relevant? Because it gives yet more evidence that vitamin D levels are somehow important in disease progression. The higher the serum vitamin D blood levels are, the less disease progression and brain atrophy and fewer active lesions and relapses. Low serum vitamin D levels early in the disease course are a risk factor for long-term MS activity and progression in pretty significant terms.

I supplement vitamin D and have for years now with my neurologist’s blessing. I live in a high latitude, and when it’s not summer, it’s winter. It's hard to get appropriate exposure to UV through those wintery months even if I'm outside every day. I don't high dose, even though toxicity is rare. I take just enough to keep my levels up.

Bonus: the supplementation also keeps my mood up. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to depression and mood disorders.

Will link when I can find the actual study and not the millions variations of the same media release.

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