Vitamin B12, Folic Acid Supplements Yield Multiple Benefits for MS Patients

Vitamin B12, Folic Acid Supplements Yield Multiple Benefits for MS Patients

Vitamins B12 and B9 (folic acid) supplements can lower levels of homocysteine (a common amino acid), improve anemia status, and boost self-reported physical health in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new research.

The study suggests a potential role for these two vitamins in improving the quality of life of MS patients.

The research article, “The Effect of Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid Supplementation on Serum Homocysteine, Anemia Status and Quality of Life of Patients with Multiple Sclerosis,” was published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research.

Despite treatment, MS patients often experience symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. Many patients have turned to dietary supplements with the hope they would reduce the severity of their symptoms.

There is substantial literature suggesting the benefits of various supplements for MS, including vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Homocysteine, of which high levels are associated with heart disease and detrimental effects in the nervous system, can be more prevalent in MS patients compared to healthy individuals. That suggests homocysteine is “one of the causative factors in the pathogenesis [development] of MS,” researchers wrote.

Lack of vitamin B12 — naturally found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products — can lead to a disruption in myelination, the process of forming a protective myelin coat around nerve cells. The loss of myelin is a hallmark of MS.

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A lack of folic acid, together with too little vitamin B12, has been linked to neurological symptom onset in MS patients. Meanwhile, vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements have shown promising results among these patients.

In addition, MS patients are known to have an increased risk for the development of megaloblastic anemia — a condition in which the bone marrow produces unusually large, immature red blood cells referred to as megaloblasts. The most common causes of megaloblastic anemia are a deficiency of either vitamin B12 or folic acid.

Based on these observations, researchers from Urmia University of Medical Sciences and Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, in Iran, studied the effects of vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements in  relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients. The team looked specifically at serum homocysteine levels, anemia status, and quality of life.

This double-blinded clinical trial (IRCT2015100313678N7) enrolled 50 RRMS patients (age 20-40 years), who were divided into two groups: the vitamin group, which received three doses of 1 mg vitamin B12 injection (spaced a month apart) plus 5 mg folic acid tablets daily; and the placebo group, which received neutral saline injections.

All participants completed two quality-of-life questionnaires, one geared toward physical health and the other toward mental health, at the start and end of the study. Blood samples were collected from all participants, and blood pressure readings were taken.

Results showed a drop in average homocysteine blood serum levels in the vitamin group, which may be indicative of an improvement in nervous system health. Researchers also observed a decrease in mean corpuscular volume (MCV) in the vitamin group, which is indicative of improved anemia status.

At the end of the study the vitamin group showed improvements in both physical and mental fields in the quality-of-life questionnaires. However, RRMS patients in the control group (without vitamin supplements) also had an increase in the quality-of-life questionnaire for mental health, obscuring any conclusions on the effect of vitamin supplements in MS patients’ mental health.

“Results of the present study have shown that homocysteine levels, anemia status, and eventually the quality of life of patients with MS can be significantly improved by administration of 1 mg of vitamin B12 monthly and adding rich-food sources of folic acid on their diet,” the researchers wrote.

The team nonetheless emphasizes that “further studies in the field of MS dietary patterns must be conducted.”

6 comments

  1. Barry says:

    The need for control is important, especially in relation to the (human) placebo effect. Quantification is important and especially difficult in self-reporting. A question/concern/thought – Is there a reported improvement (even in the control group) that is due to the feeling of ‘doing something’ in relation to disease management actually partially masking any placebo? [That is, people with MS want to improve their health and even if unwittingly in the control group ‘feel’ as though they are doing something!]

  2. Laura Hagler says:

    I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 – hypo-manic about 30 years ago, but it began at 13 and I was able to deal with it and hide it because the depression didn’t last but 4,-5 days. In time the depression episodes got worse and lasted longer.
    I’ve been on almost every medication used for bipolar 2. I built resistance to many.
    After lots of research I began taking CBD Oil, was amazed by the changes and have reduced my medication by 3/4. Yes my phychartrist is working with me.
    I see a chiropractor and take vitamins too.
    I forgot to say that I was have diagnosed 3-4 years ago and was falling every day.
    I have been in therapy since bipolar2 was diagnosed.
    Please let people know, hope is so rare
    Laura Hagler

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