In women of childbearing age, low vitamin D levels are a common issue often resulting from low intake of vitamin D (in food) and/or inadequate sunlight exposure, although other less frequent causes exist, including genetic disorders and pregnancy. The most identified consequence of vitamin D deficiency in women is sub-optimal bone mineralization, leading to osteomalacia and osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency is a health issue for many women, however, low levels of active vitamin D are particularly associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) development and progression as well.
MS is a disease characterized by the destruction of insulating covers of nerve cells by the immune system. Its cause is not fully understood but it is more frequently diagnosed in women and its symptoms usually begin in childbearing age.
As vitamin D deficiency is so common, especially in pregnant women (with or without MS), supplementation is commonly prescribed by physicians. However, there is a need for expanded insight into understanding vitamin D deficiency in pregnant MS patients. To this end, a recent study published in the Iranian Journal of Neurology provides new insights into vitamin D supplementation in this patient population in order to better understand both safety and efficacy.
A team of researchers from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran led by Dr. Masoud Etemadifar conducted a randomized controlled clinical study in 15 pregnant women with low vitamin D levels and MS. Women treated with 50,000 IU/week of vitamin D3 (standard oral vitamin D3 supplementation in vitamin deficiency) showed significantly higher vitamin D levels and fewer symptoms related to MS 6 months after delivery of their babies, as measured by the expanded disability status scale. Although not statistically significant, the relapse number among the study participants also appeared to be lower in women supplemented with vitamin D.
The study did have limitations in that it was only exploratory in nature and featured a small sample size. However, the findings revealed that, compared to routine care, the supplementation of pregnant women with MS with standard high-dose supplementation of vitamin D had a significantly positive effect on the disease. These results are promising and warrant the need for further studies with larger sample sizes and longer follow-ups to ascertain the true safety and efficacy of supplementation in this subgroup of patients.