A recent study published in the prestigious journal Neurology found a strong link between low vitamin D levels and multiple sclerosis (MS). Of course, as a reader of my Daily Dispatch, you already knew about this correlation.
But this new study is still worth our time, as it’s the largest and longest controlled study yet on MS and vitamin D.
Of course, the mainstream finds it hard to accept the obvious science. And I still hear cockamamie theories that viruses, cold weather, indoor pets, and even using heaters cause MS in colder, darker climes.
Yet the obvious cause has been hiding in plain sight all along.
Statistical data show that MS is far more common among people living at higher latitudes (which are colder and darker), such as Scandinavian countries like Finland. Of course, men and women who live in these areas don’t get enough sunshine year-round to activate vitamin D production in their skin. So — about a decade ago, some researchers finally began to consider low vitamin D could be a strong factor for MS.
For this new study, U.S. researchers analyzed data from more than 800,000 pregnant women in Finland taken over 26 years — between 1983 and 2009. During this time, the participants gave blood samples, which the researchers tested for vitamin D.
Over course of the study, 1,092 women were diagnosed with MS. The researchers compared their blood samples to 2,123 samples collected from women who didn’t develop the disease.
As it turns out, women with “sufficient” vitamin D levels of 50 nmol/L or higher in the blood had a 39 percent lower risk of developing MS later in life.
By contrast, women with a vitamin D “insufficiency” (between 49 and 30 nmol/L) had a 27 percent greater risk of developing MS later in life compared to those with adequate levels of vitamin D. And women with a vitamin D “deficiency” (under 30 nmol/L) ran a 43 percent greater risk of developing MS than those with adequate levels.
Furthermore, women who had repeated vitamin D deficiencies in blood tests over time ran double the risk of developing MS compared to women with adequate levels. And women with “extreme vitamin D deficiency” (less than 27 nmol/L) ran a 53 to 66 percent higher risk of developing MS comparatively.
Of course, earlier, smaller studies have linked low vitamin D with higher MS risk. The data in this new, larger study makes it clear that correcting vitamin D deficiency in young and middle-aged women can reduce their future risk of developing MS. If any drug showed benefits like these — in a clear, dose-response relationship like this — doctors would be rushing to prescribe it!
Use vitamin D screenings to prevent, not just predict
But instead, the article recommends active screening of those with elevated risk factors for MS, including family history, obesity and smoking. None of those risk factors come close to matching the risk of low vitamin D.
In one article I read about the study, the author said that testing for a vitamin D deficiency may help identify whether a woman runs a long-term risk for MS. In other words, she suggests using vitamin D testing as a diagnostic screening tool to predict which women will ultimately get MS.
How about actually correcting the vitamin D deficiency, as soon as they find it, so that women can get adequate vitamin D and actually prevent MS? Or simply supplementing with vitamin D daily, as I recommend?
That idea never even seems to enter into these researchers’ minds. In fact, in the study’s conclusion, the researchers still didn’t appear ready to actually recommend taking vitamin D supplements at all!
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
Several years ago, when a U.K. study clearly found a strong link between low vitamin D and mood disorders, such as depression, the editors at the British Medical Journal, where it was published, wrote an editorial to go along with the actual data. They advised against giving vitamin D supplements.
But the excuses may be running out, as we now know vitamin D also helps prevent a number of other diseases as well. In fact, strong research shows optimal vitamin D levels reduce the risk of heart disease, lung disease, bone disease, infections, and cancers. In women with breast cancer, optimal levels double survival rates and quality of life. It also has survival benefits for other cancers as well.
So why do researchers remain so reluctant to simply recommend people get more healthy sun exposure and adequate vitamin D?! It boggles the mind.
Proactive, seasonal pointers
With fall in full swing, I recommend getting started on a vitamin D regimen if you haven’t already. Even if you get outside daily during this time of year, the sun is no longer high enough in the sky to activate vitamin D production. (Hopefully, you get outside daily year-round, anyway. Simply spending time outside in Nature provides a host of health benefits besides vitamin D.)
Fortunately, vitamin D supplements also work very well.
Many doctors now prescribe 1,000 or 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily. And that amount is better than nothing, but a majority of research suggests you should take 10,000 IU per day for optimal health.
You can now find vitamin D in handy liquid form — so, rather than taking more pills, you can simply add it to a healthy beverage of your choice. You can also find liquid vitamin D with astaxanthin, a potent marine carotenoid that I will tell you all about in my Dispatch for November 16.
So — starting this month, make sure you get optimal levels of vitamin D and other key nutrients. And ask your doctor to measure your vitamin D with a simple blood sample. It’s best to be on the offense when it comes to MS prevention, rather than waiting for a too little, too late prediction.
“25-Hydroxyvitamin D deficiency and risk of MS among women in the Finnish Maternity Cohort,” Neurology (www.neurology.org) 9/13/2017