Background: Vitamin D could play a protective role in multiple sclerosis.
Methods: In an observational, uncontrolled study, vitamin D3 supplementation (3010 IU/day on average) was given to 156 consecutive patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, under first-line immunomodulatory therapy and with initial 25-OH-D serum level lower than 100 nmol/l (40 ng/ml). Relapses were determined for 29.1 ± 8.4 months during vitamin D and 29.8 ± 10.1 months before supplementation. The 25-OH-D level was measured before supplementation and several times during supplementation. The incidence rate of relapses before and during supplementation was estimated using negative binomial regression models with follow-up durations as offset terms. The incidence rate and incidence rate ratio of relapses at various 25-OH-D levels were also calculated using negative binomial regression models.
Results: In 76 patients, immunomodulatory therapy preceded vitamin D supplementation (by 4.2 ± 2.7 years) and in 80 patients both treatments were started simultaneously. Under supplementation, the 25-OH-D level increased from 49 ± 22 nmol/l to 110 ± 26 nmol/l on average. Pooling data collected before and during supplementation, we found a significant strong inverse relationship between the relapse incidence rate and the 25-OH-D level (p < 0.0001), suggesting that vitamin D did indeed influence the relapse rate. Results of univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses were analogous: in the multivariate model adjusted for age, disease duration and previous use of immunomodulatory therapy, every 10 nmol increase in 25-OH-D level was associated with a reduction in the relapse incidence rate of 13.7%. Dividing iteratively the population made up of pooled periods into two subgroups according to the 25-OH-D levels, the relapse incidence rate ratio decreased as the 25-OH-D level increased up to 110 nmol/l, but a plateau effect was observed beyond this limit.
Conclusion: Further studies are warranted for accurate quantification of the vitamin D effect.
Keywords: multiple sclerosis; relapse rate; vitamin D; vitamin D supplementation.