Western New York has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. We also get less sunshine because we stay indoors in the cold weather.
Now a new study suggests low levels of Vitamin D may be related to the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Zivadinov is head of the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center, part of the Jacobs Neurological Institute at Buffalo General Hospital. He says Vitamin D alone cannot explain high rates of multiple sclerosis.
“Clearly, just by the low level of Vitamin D, you are not going to be able to explain the disease, because why do people who have low levels of Vitamin D do not necessarily develop multiple sclerosis? So there is something else needed to develop the disease,” he said.
Dr. Zivadinov has been involved in several studies of Vitamin D and sunshine in multiple sclerosis. In multiple sclerosis, cavities, called ventricles, enlarge because the brain shrinks.
As the disease progresses, lesions that form enlarge and become more numerous. At the neuroimaging analysis center, they are identified and measured. Low Vitamin D levels are related to that.
“The Vitamin D levels over the first two years may be predictive of more disease progression, both in terms of MRI and clinical activity,” Dr. Zivadinov explained.
But he and his colleagues have discovered that sunshine is related, too. Those with the least sun exposure had a greater decrease in brain size. And that was also true for people who didn’t have multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Zivadinov said, “So the message would be get exposed as much as you can to the sun in the summertime.”
The message might also be, if you have low Vitamin D, bring it up to normal. Many of us in Western New York do have low Vitamin D. That doesn’t cause multiple sclerosis, but there’s considerable evidence now that for those who have multiple sclerosis, inadequate levels of Vitamin D seem to make it worse.
Ask your doctor to test your level of Vitamin D. If its normal, adding more won’t do you any good and might even be harmful. So just like deciding to take any other medicine, you should find out first whether you really need it.