Link between MS brain atrophy, cognitive function & low vitamin D levels

It has long been known that lower-than-normal vitamin D levels were associated with a greater risk of developing MS…but little is known about its relationship to cognitive impairment. The study mentioned on May 3rd 2010, in Medical News Today, links low vitamin D levels to not only a more advanced physical disability but also cognitive impairment in people with MS.

In sum, the results of the study showed, among other things…:

  • Clinical evaluation and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images show low blood levels of total vitamin D and certain active vitamin D byproducts are associated with increased disability, brain atrophy and brain lesion load in MS patients.
  • A potential association exists between cognitive impairment in MS patients and low vitamin D levels.

… And also that only 7% of people with secondary progressive MS showed sufficient vitamin D (compared to 18.3% of patients with the less severe relapsing-remitting type).

“Results showed that MS patients who were impaired on tests of executive function — critical reasoning and abstract thinking — and the ability to plan and organize, were more likely to be deficient in vitamin D”… “This relationship held true when controlling for the season during which vitamin D was measured, as well as depression, which is known to be associated with lower vitamin D levels.” Morrow noted there also was a suggestion that verbal fluency (word generation) and visual-spatial memory (learning and memory of shapes and figures) is more likely to be affected when vitamin D levels are not sufficient.

(see under “links” to the right for more details on the study)


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