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Taking vitamin D supplements lowers risk of multiple sclerosis

ST. PAUL, MN Women who take vitamin D supplements through multivitamins are 40 percent less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) than women who do not take supplements, according to a study published in the January 13 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Food is a source of vitamin D, and the body makes vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.

"Because the number of cases of MS increases the farther you get from the equator, one hypothesis has been that sunlight exposure and high levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of MS," said study author Kassandra Munger, MSc, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA. "This is the first prospective study to look at this question.

"These results need to be confirmed with additional research, but it's exciting to think that something as simple as taking a multivitamin could reduce your risk of developing MS."

The researchers examined data from two large studies involving women, the 20-year Nurses' Health Study and the 10-year Nurses' Health Study II. The women's diets and use of multivitamin supplements were assessed as the studies began and then again every four years. Women with MS symptoms starting before beginning the study were not included in the results. There were 187,563 women in the study. Of those, 173 women developed MS during the course of the study.

The women were divided into groups based on vitamin D use. Those with the highest intake of vitamin D from supplements (400 IU or more per day) were 40 percent less likely to develop MS than those who used no supplements.

The risk of developing MS was lower both for those high in intake of vitamin D from supplements only and for those high in intake from both supplements and food. However, those whose intake of vitamin D was from food only did not have any lesser risk of developing MS.

The researchers also analyzed the data while adjusting for smoking
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Contact: Marilee Reu
mreu@aan.com
651-695-2789
American Academy of Neurology
12-Jan-2004


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