A new study is currently underway at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, investigating if vitamin D can prevent or delay the onset of multiple sclerosis in people showing early signs of the disease.

When people have early signs of multiple sclerosis, doctors call this clinically isolated syndrome. If you have clinically isolated syndrome, the chances of developing multiple sclerosis within a few years’ time is approximately fifty percent.

When a person is diagnosed with clinically isolated syndrome, doctors try to treat their patients to delay the onset of MS, or prevent from relapsing into multiple sclerosis. There have been some drugs developed that delay onset; therefore, delay the progression of multiple sclerosis, but researchers are still trying to find more effective options.

Vitamin D has shown promise for this early stage type multiple sclerosis. In one study in North America, vitamin D levels predicted whether people with clinically isolated syndrome or relapsing-remitting MS relapsed into disease state; the lower the level, the more likely you were to relapse. Also, in a randomized controlled trial out of Iran earlier this year, vitamin D supplementation of 50,000 IU/week delayed onset in all 13 patients taking vitamin D, while 5 of the 11 placebo-taking patients developed MS over the course of the one year study.

This raises the question, can vitamin D delay the onset of early-stage multiple sclerosis? Researchers in Ireland, led by Drs Karen O’Connell and Michael Hutchinson, will be further investigating this question in a similar randomized controlled trial to the study out of Iran.

They will enroll 45 patients with clinically isolated syndrome and 39 healthy control patients. Participants will be randomized to either take 5,000 IU of vitamin D/day, 10,000 IU of vitamin D/day or a placebo pill/day. They will take these doses over a 24 week period.

At the start and end of the trial, the researchers will be measuring if vitamin D influences the number of certain immune cells, brain lesions. and whether patients relapse into multiple sclerosis or not.

If all goes well, the results from the study should be available sometime next year.


The Vitamin D Council Newsletter Sept, 4 2013. New study underway on vitamin D and early stage multiple sclerosis.

O’Connell K et al. Dose-related effects of vitamin D on immune responses in patients with clinically isolated syndrome and healthy control participants: study protocol for an exploratory randomized double- blind placebo-controlled trial. BioMed Central, 2013.

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