Monday, January 28, 2008

Low Vitamin D Increases Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

- Journal of the American Medical Association reports link

Today The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) joined the chorus of esteemed publications extolling the newly recognized virtues of Vitamin D. Significantly these now include an association with the dreaded disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

MS is a chronic, unpredictable illness that interferes with the central nervous system (the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord). It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the person’s immune system incorrectly attacks the person's own healthy tissue. Specifically, in MS, the immune system assaults myelin, the protective cells surrounding nerve fibers. As the myelin is destroyed, it is replaced with scars of sclerotic tissue. This damage occurs in multiple places along the nerve fibers, limiting the nerve’s ability to transmit signals to the brain.

Approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week about 200 new patients are diagnosed. Although not considered a fatal disease, people with MS may face a struggle to live productively, often with increasing limitations. The symptoms of MS are unpredictable, but generally include blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness. These problems, which vary from person to person, may be permanent, or may come and go.

The report in JAMA is significant because it offers hope that someday many people may be able to avoid this crippling condition simply by adding more Vitamin D to their diet.

To learn more about the new research into Vitamin D, we suggest these articles:
Munger, K.L., et al., Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis, JAMA. 2006;296:2832-2838.

Vitamin D and Autoimmune Disease—Implications for Practice from the Multiple Sclerosis Literature. Mark BL, Carson JAS, Journal of the American Dietetic Association- 2006 03 (Vol. 106, Issue 3)

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