Vitamin D is a naturally-occurring nutrient found in certain foods, and the body can also attain it through sun exposure. Deficiencies in this crucial nutrient can cause bone and muscle pain, and over time, may also be linked with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and certain types of cancer. Additionally, vitamin D aids in calcium regulation and is therefore essential for maintaining healthy bones.
While vitamin D intake has been hailed by medical experts as a means of supporting overall wellness for years, researchers have recently begun to compile even more reason to load up on the vitamin: it could possibly aid in the prevention of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The Link Between Vitamin D & MS
One compelling piece of research supporting a connection between MS and vitamin D is the higher concentration of individuals with the disease living in areas that receive less sunshine. Now, further research performed by the University of Oxford shows a “substantial evidence base” linking vitamin D and MS. While the average odds for a UK citizen to develop MS are one in 1,000, the odds for individuals with the gene variant DRB1*150 jump to one in 300. The study’s findings show that vitamin D plays an integral role in the functionality of the DRB1 gene. Thus, maintaining adequate levels of the vitamin could lower a person’s risk of developing MS.
Yet, what does this mean for people who are already living with MS? More than 2.5 million people suffer from the disease worldwide, and it is the most common disabling neurological condition in young adults. It turns out vitamin D may also have beneficial effects on individuals with MS, too. According to additional studies, the nutrient could help alleviate the severity and frequency of symptoms. MS causes the immune system to attack nerve cells’ protective layers, but because vitamin D has a positive effect on a person’s immunity, taking it regularly could aid in symptom management.
A Staggering Deficiency
While the benefits of getting enough vitamin D are clear, a deficiency among a large percentage of the population remains. More than 41% of U.S. adults are deficient, while it’s estimated 1 billion people across the globe have inadequate levels of the vitamin in their blood.
The deficiencies could result from a few factors. For one, many people have become more diligent about limiting exposure to UV rays in an attempt to lower skin cancer risks. Additionally, the vitamin is only found in limited types of food, including spinach, kale, fatty fish like tuna and mackerel, cheese, and egg yolks.
Nonetheless, even individuals with dietary restrictions and safe sun practices can use supplements to increase their intake. While the National Institutes of Health recommends a daily intake of 600 IU for individuals between the ages of 19 and 70, you can consult with your physician before beginning a daily supplement regimen for a precise recommendation.