Vitamin D Supplements May Improve MS Quality of Life

Steve Bryson, PhD avatar

by Steve Bryson, PhD |

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Vitamin D supplementation may improve quality of life in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a literature review study.

Because vitamin D deficiency is common in MS patients, these findings suggest that “supplementation should be applied at least in a dose that covers the recommended intake,” the researchers wrote.

The review study, “Vitamin D Supplementation and Mental Health in Multiple Sclerosis Patients: A Systematic Review,” was published in the journal Nutrients.

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Low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of MS. In the early stages of the disease, it is also a strong risk factor for long-term activity and progression.

Although several studies have concluded that vitamin D supplementation has no significant effect on disability progression or MS relapse rate, others suggest vitamin D treatment may improve mental health, such as reducing the risk of depression or negative emotions.

To investigate further, scientists at the Warsaw University in Poland systematically reviewed the medical literature to determine if treatment with vitamin D supplements affected the mental health of people with MS.

Researchers searched medical databases for studies that enrolled adult MS patients in which vitamin D supplementation was applied and mental health outcomes were assessed.

Among the six studies that matched their eligibility criteria, two were clinical trials in which participants were randomly assigned to either vitamin D or placebo, and the remaining four were prospective studies conducted over time.

Two of the selected studies recruited patients worldwide, one was not specified, while the others were held in Iran, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia. Three studies enrolled patients with relapsing-remitting MS, and the other three did not define the MS subtype.

The study groups ranged from 35 participants to 1,401, and the majority were between the ages of 30 and 40. However, the largest international study included older patients almost 50.

In most of the selected studies, vitamin D exposure ranged from four weeks to 12 months (one year). The most extensive international study asked participants to declare vitamin D supplementation and evaluated the effect after 2.5 years. Mental health assessments included depression or depressive symptoms and quality of life, as well as fatigue.

All selected studies indicated some positive association between vitamin D supplementation and mental health, but only in particular subcategories of mental health.

One controlled trial found no significant differences in depression between treatment and placebo groups. But while those on vitamin D supplementation experienced a significant reduction in depression scores after treatment, there was only a trend toward decrease in the placebo group.

Similarly, another study indicated a lower risk of depression with vitamin D. However, after adjusting for influencing factors, such as smoking, diet, and physical activity, the association was no longer statistically significant.

Four studies supported a positive effect of vitamin D supplementation on the mental health of MS patients, including the study considered the highest quality. In this study, mental quality of life improved significantly after receiving high doses of vitamin D for three months compared with placebo.

“Based on this review, we concluded that there may be a positive effect of vitamin D supplementation,” the researchers wrote. “Such a positive effect was found in all the studies analyzing quality of life, as well as in one study that analyzed depressive symptoms.”

Further, “Taking into consideration that vitamin D deficiency is common in MS patients, and the potential positive influence of supplementation on the quality of life in this group,” the researchers suggest that MS patients should receive regular vitamin D supplementation.