Dr.Ruth hasn’t got the log-in details of the new blog, so she asked me to post this.
As some of you may know one of the projects that we have been working on has been a vitamin D study in collaboration with the UK MS Register, called the ‘Vitamin D in people with MS’ study. We want to thank all of the participants who took part in this – those who filled out questionnaires, or returned sampling kits and of course all the friends that were asked to join and act as controls. Research into vitamin D is one of the top research priorities for people living with MS, and we had a fantastic response to this study. We want to share a few of our results with you so you can see how your participation has helped us in our research to understand vitamin D status in the UK MS population and factors that influence it.
We found that over 70% of people living with MS that took part in our study take vitamin D supplements. This is much higher than the matched controls (people without MS) where ~30% reported taking vitamin D supplements. Not only were people with MS more likely to take vitamin D supplements, but they also reported taking them at doses that were almost 3 times higher than non-MS participants.
This is important as we found that people who supplement have higher levels of serum vitamin D, and that a persons blood level of vitamin D depends on the strength of the supplement that they are taking. As you would expect, higher vitamin D supplement doses resulted in higher levels of vitamin D in the blood. Because people living with MS were taking more vitamin D supplements, and at higher doses, than those without MS, overall we found that people with MS were less likely to be deficient in vitamin D than the control group. This is excellent news!
We are now looking at the information we collected to help us to better understand which other factors, such as diet, time spent outdoors and use of sun protection are most relevant to influencing vitamin D levels in people living with MS, and whether this is different to people without MS. We are also looking at how common genetic variation influences vitamin D levels, and whether this differs between the participants with MS and those without MS.
It is not clear what impact increasing levels of vitamin D has on MS, and this is an area of real interest for both researchers and people with MS alike. This study has already helped to provide data that will inform future clinical trials looking at supplementation, with both the set up and the technologies required to carry out large scale trials.
A really important finding of this study was discovering the overwhelming interest that the MS community has in taking part in research. The remote sampling aspect of this study was accessible to all, and we found that participants were equally likely to complete this regardless of disability level or geographical location. In fact, we had participants who spanned the UK, from the very smallest of hamlets in the Orkney Islands and Outer Hebrides to the larger city centres like Birmingham and London.
We will continue to keep you updated with outcomes from this study, but for now we want to wish you and your family and friends a very happy holiday season!