Can Vitamin D supplements help reduce multiple sclerosis rates?

Recent scientific studies have suggested that vitamin D supplements could be effective at tackling multiple sclerosis rates, but a consensus is yet to be r…

Multiple sclerosis – or MS – is a disease that’s often discussed but not always understood. Essentially, MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. MS sufferers have trouble controlling their body’s movement and balance, and can suffer from severe fatigue. Around 100,000 people in the UK are believed to suffer from MS and it particularly affects young people, with symptoms arising between the age of 20 and 40 years old.

For several years, scientists have debated the idea that vitamin D supplements could help tackle MS rates. In December 2011, the topic was thrown into the limelight once again as an Oxford academic raised alarm at the high rates of MS sufferers in Scotland, urging the Scottish government to fortify essential foods with vitamin D. So what exactly is the link between MS and vitamin D?

Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis

While vitamin D is not a necessary part of a daily diet, a good intake helps to keep teeth and bones healthy. Vitamin D can be found in a range of foods, including oily fish, eggs and powdered milk. However, the biggest source of vitamin D for the average person is the sun. As skin reacts to sunlight, vitamin D is formed under the skin, though adequate protection against sunburn should always be taken.

So how does this relate to MS? Scientists have found links between rates of MS and the levels of sunlight. Fundamentally, the trend suggests that the further away from the equator a person lives, the higher the risk of MS. This suggests that vitamin D can play a vital role in helping to reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis, though experts are yet to form a consensus on the matter.

In Scotland, where winter sunlight may be restricted to just a few hours, MS rates are the highest in the world – and vitamin D levels among the lowest. George Ebers, an Oxford professor of clinical psychology, warned this month that the government should be doing more to tackle the issue. He recommended that introducing vitamin D supplements into food in Scotland would be the most effective way of doing this. However, while Professor Ebers is convinced of the role of vitamin D in tackling MS rates, the lack of consensus and tests within the scientific community means that the Scottish government is yet to make a decision on how to proceed.

Protecting your health as an MS sufferer

Even though scientists may be undecided on whether or not vitamin D can help alleviate multiple sclerosis, they are certain that it helps to promote healthy bones. In turn, this should help protect bones from fracture or breakage in MS-sufferers, whose affected balance may be the cause of several falls.

Though it may be highly unlikely that those suffering from MS will be able to obtain private medical cover – as the illness is incurable – there are a variety of vitamin D deficiency related illnesses which are far more likely to be covered in any insurance policy. Conditions such as Ricket’s or osteomalacia are all curable, and as such, are covered by most health insurance schemes given that they aren’t pre-existing conditions, and arise after the policy has been taken out.

Use the internet to compare health insurance quotes to find a competitive deal, and you could see real improvements in your levels of treatment. Depending on your policy details, you may also be covered for visits to autoimmune disease specialists, who will be able to give you greater advice on the effectiveness of vitamin D at tackling a host of conditions.