Researchers at the Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania found that one of the main treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) may increase the amount of vitamin D patients produce when exposed to sunlight.
The study published in Neurology found that patients taking interferon-beta (IFN-β) for treatment of their MS had higher vitamin D levels than those using no treatment or other forms of treatment.
The researchers included data from 178 persons with MS living in Southern Tasmania who participated in the MS Longitudinal Study (2002-2005). Participants’ vitamin D levels were measured twice a year along with questionnaires addressing status of IFN-β treatment.
The researchers found that patients on IFN-β produced nearly three times 25(OH)D per hour of sun exposure compared to patients not on IFN-β.
“The increase in vitamin D was due to an enhancement of the association between sun and vitamin D from similar amounts of sun exposure to those not taking interferon-beta,” said author Dr Niall Stewart.
The authors also discovered that participants with sufficient vitamin D levels on IFN-β treatment had a decreased risk of relapse when compared to patients with insufficient vitamin D levels.
The authors conclude,
“IFN-β therapy is associated with greater production of vitamin D from sun exposure, suggesting part of the therapeutic effects of IFN-β on relapse in MS may be through modulation of vitamin D metabolism. These findings suggest persons being treated with IFN-β should have vitamin D status monitored and maintained in the sufficiency range.”