Woman With Multiple Sclerosis
Matoula Kastrioti, 46, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, enters the sea with a "Seatrac", a solar-powered device that allows people with kinetic disabilities to enter and get out of the sea autonomously, at a beach in Alepochori, west of Athens July 12, 2013. Founded by a team of Greek scientists in 2008 and covered by European and U.S patent laws, the Seatrac device operates on a fixed-track mechanism which allows up to 30 wheelchairs to be moved in and out of the water a day - all powered by solar energy. In a country with one of the world's longest coastlines and thousands of islands, it has come as a welcome relief for many Greeks, boosting demand each year. Currently, 11 devices operate in Greece and there are plans to expand the network. Picture taken July 12, 2013. Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

Taking a high-dose of vitamin D appears to be safe for people with multiple sclerosis and may help calm the body’s hyperactive immune response. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University say that daily doses of the vitamin could possibly be a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

“These results are exciting, as vitamin D has the potential to be an inexpensive, safe and convenient treatment for people with MS,” Peter Calabresi, director of the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Centre and professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a press release. “More research is needed to confirm these findings with larger groups of people and to help us understand the mechanisms for these effects, but the results are promising.”

The researchers studied 40 people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. For six months, these patients were given either 10,400 international units (IU) or 800 IU of vitamin D3 supplements daily, higher than the 600 IU of vitamin D daily recommendation. The team observed that patients taking the higher dose showed a decrease in the percentage of specific immune system T cells associated with multiple sclerosis. Every five nanogrammes per millilitre increase in vitamin D levels resulted to one percent reduction of the T cells. No change was seen in patients taking the lower dose supplements.

Calabresi hopes that these changes in inflammatory T cell responses translate to a reduced severity of disease. The researchers say that other clinical trials are underway to confirm the findings. However, the executive vice president of research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Bruce Bebo, stated that the study was not designed to look at vitamin D’s efficacy against multiple sclerosis.

Bebo notes that this new study gave hints that the risk of developing the condition is associated with low vitamin D levels. Consulting about any medications or supplements for one’s condition is also a must, Bebo adds.

Multiple sclerosis breaks down the fatty myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibres, leading to motor, sensory and cognitive function impairment. MS Australia, a non-profit organisation that caters to people with multiple sclerosis, estimated that 23,700 Australians are living with the condition.