High-dose vitamin D supplements appear to aggravate inflammation and myelin loss in the brain and spinal cord, and worsen the disability associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), a study in a mouse disease model reported.
Excessive use of vitamin D causes calcium levels to spike, which directly increase the inflammatory state of immune cells and their capacity to infiltrate the central nervous system (CNS; the brain and spinal cord), the researchers observed.
Supplements given in moderation, however, may help to ease disease symptoms.
The findings were presented at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2020, held Feb. 27–29 in Florida, in the poster “High Dose Vitamin D Worsens Experimental CNS Autoimmune Disease By Raising T Cell-excitatory Calcium.” The presenter was Sebastian Torke, PhD, with the Institute of Neuropathology, University Medical Center in Göttingen, Germany.
A large body of data suggests that low vitamin D levels raise a person’s risk of developing MS. But whether or not vitamin supplements should be given to people who already have the disease is under debate.
In general, MS patients have relatively low levels of vitamin D. Based on studies showing an association between low levels of this vitamin and a higher risk of relapses and earlier disability, doctors often recommend oral vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplements to their patients.
Yet, it is unclear whether such supplements offer therapeutic benefits to MS patients, and if they do, what doses should be advised. While relatively low doses of vitamin D appear to be safe, high doses are likely toxic and potentially harmful.
Researchers set out to model the consequences of this common practice by investigating the effects of long-term vitamin D supplements given to mice.
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