The research, published in JAMA Neurology, examined whether serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) is indicative of later disease activity and prognosis in people with the early stages of MS - or first event suggestive of MS (clinically isolated syndrome).
Led by Professor Alberto Ascherio from the Harvard School of Public Health, the research team assessed data from 465 participants, finding that higher 25(OH)D levels were predictive of reduced MS activity and a slower rate of progression.
"Among patients with MS mainly treated with interferon beta-1b, low 25[OH]D levels early in the disease course are a strong risk factor for long-term MS activity and progression," wrote Ascherio and his colleagues.
The team noted that MS is a common cause of neurological disability, adding that vitamin D status has been linked to the disease process by several previous studies - some of which have suggested that people with vitamin D deficiency may be at an increased risk of the condition, while others have suggested that supplementation with the vitamin may help to easy symptoms.
The new research used data from the BENEFIT(the Betaferon/Betaseron in Newly Emerging multiple sclerosis For Initial Treatment) study to assess whether vitamin D status - as measured by serum 25[OH]D levels - were linked to later risk of disease progression in a total of 465 participants.
Patients were followed for up to five years with magnetic resonance imaging.
Ascherio and his team revealed that increases of 50-nmol/L in average blood 25[OH]D levels within the first 12 months appeared to be associated with a 57% lower risk of new active brain lesions, 57% lower risk of relapse, 25% lower yearly increase in T2 lesion volume and 0.41% lower yearly loss in brain volume from months 12 to 60 of the follow up.
Source: JAMA Neurology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.5993
"Vitamin D as an Early Predictor of Multiple Sclerosis Activity and Progression"
Authors: Alberto Ascherio, Kassandra L. Munger, et al