#ACTRIMS2017 – Sun Exposure May Lower Fatigue, Slow Disability Progression in MS

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Spending more time in the sunshine could make people with multiple sclerosis (MS) feel more energetic, though dietary vitamin D intake’s effect is mixed, depending on what type of MS a particular patient has.

That’s the conclusion of a study — “Dietary intakes of vitamin D, sunshine exposure, EDSS and fatigue scale in Multiple Sclerosis: Are there any correlations?” — presented Feb. 23 at the Poster Session 1 and Opening Networking Event of the ongoing ACTRIMS 2017 Forum in Orlando, Florida.

The Iranian study found that longer exposure to the sun is linked to lower levels of fatigue and lower disability in both relapsing and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Researchers also linked the consumption of vitamin D in foods and beverages to lower disability levels, though vitamin D levels appeared to have no impact on fatigue and disability among patients with secondary progressive MS.

The study, by the Kashani Hospital of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, suggests that more research is needed to examine the effects of sun exposure on these parameters across different subtypes of MS. It included 126 patients, of which 84 had relapsing MS and 21 each had primary or secondary progressive disease.

To assess vitamin D intake, researchers administered a 168-item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire, in which particular focus was placed on calcium and vitamin D intake.

Another questionnaire asked patients about how much time they spent in the sun. The impact of other habits that could be linked to exposure was also covered in the questionnaire, which examined the three months before the study began.

Researchers also measured disability levels and fatigue using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and a fatigue questionnaire.

As expected, patients with progressive disease scored higher on disability and fatigue assessments than relapsing MS patients. Vitamin D intake did not differ between the groups.

Higher vitamin D intake and sun exposure were found to be linked to lower disability scores among relapsing MS patients, with a stronger correlation between disability and sun exposure, than vitamin intake. Sun exposure also reduced fatigue.

Among primary progressive MS patients, sun exposure was also linked to lower levels of disability and fatigue. The research team could not detect any other correlations between the measurements.

“Our study demonstrated that there were a negative significant correlation between sun exposure with EDSS and fatigue scale in RRMS and PPMS,” researchers concluded. “This is the first report of correlation between vitamin D with EDSS and fatigue scale in three types of MS and further studies with larger sample sizes need to prove these results.”

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