The wife of presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Ann, has recently been the central figure in several news pieces covering her battle with the disease, multiple sclerosis. Ann was diagnosed with MS in the late fall of 1998. She recalls, “I didn’t have the energy to even talk to anybody. It’s like a gray cloud that invaded every cell of my body. It was in the brain. It was in my muscles. It was in my organs. I had no ability to almost do anything.”
Despite this feeling, Ann reportedly started riding horses outside every day, no matter the level of fatigue. She says, “As soon as I got on, I completely forgot I was even sick or tired or — that fatigue feeling — I just was so filled with joy that it just was like a magic pill for me.” In 2001, her multiple sclerosis went into remission. She credits traditional therapy and some alternative treatments like yoga and reflexology in helping her MS, but she was in the sunshine, too.
Therefore, I’ll be the first to ask, did the sunshine she got while riding horses help her MS? She may have been outdoors riding many hours each day, increasing her vitamin D level. Recently, we blogged about a new French study showing that vitamin D may be an effective treatment for relapsing-remitting MS.
Ann Romney needs to prevent a reoccurrence; Dr. Kassandra Munger and Alberto Ascherio, of the Harvard School of Public Health, recently reviewed the effects of vitamin D in MS. The authors stated that while other explanations for this link are possible, “a genuine protective effect of vitamin D itself remains the most parsimonious and plausible explanation.”
However, the sun may work better than vitamin D. Dr Bryan Becklund, working with the famous Professor Hector DeLuca and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin have shown that in an animal model of MS, ultraviolet radiation can suppress MS better than vitamin D.
Thus, I would like to be the first to say to Ann Romney, stay in the sun and take 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D. MS is a disease of exacerbations and remissions and may return after a ten-year hiatus. Preliminary data shows that sun exposure and vitamin D may help. What exactly does she have to lose?
- Radsken, Jill. Ann Romney on her choices, family, health and future. Boston Herald, 2002.
- McFadden, Cynthia. Ann Romney: From the Saddle to the Campaign Trail. ABC Nightline, 2008.
- Munger KL, Ascherio A. Prevention and treatment of MS: studying the effects of vitamin D. Mult Scler. 2011 Dec;17(12):1405-11.
- Becklund BR, Severson KS, Vang SV, DeLuca HF. UV radiation suppresses experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis independent of vitamin D production. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 6;107(14):6418-23. Epub 2010 Mar 22.