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Health News Archive 28 - Multiple Sclerosis
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Vitamin D Supplements May Lower MS Risk

Long-term data from two studies of female nurses suggest that use of vitamin D supplements, primarily in the form of multivitamins, may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

"It's exciting to think that something as simple as taking a multivitamin could reduce your risk of developing MS," said Dr. Kassandra Munger, from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who led the study.

As part of the 20-year Nurses' Health Study and the 10-year Nurses' Health Study II, a total of 187,563 women provided information on diet and multivitamin use at baseline and every 4 years thereafter. During follow up, 173 cases of MS were documented.

According to the report in the medical journal Neurology, women who used the most vitamin D were 41 percent less likely to develop MS than women who used none. This benefit held true even after adjusting for other factors such as patient age, smoking history, and birth location. Total vitamin D intake -- from foods and supplements -- also influenced MS risk. Women with the highest total intake were 33 percent less likely to develop MS than women with the lowest intake. In contrast, relying solely on food as the source of vitamin D didn't offer any protection against MS.

"Previous studies have provided support for a possible protective effect of vitamin D by showing that individuals with MS tend to have low vitamin D levels in blood and that sun exposure (which increases vitamin D levels) is associated with a lower risk of MS," Dr. Munger noted. "There is also evidence from studies on animals...that vitamin D can prevent (MS) development and slow its progression," she said.

SOURCE: Neurology, January 13, 2004.

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Turmeric Inhibits Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers have determined that curcumin, a compound in the spice turmeric, can stop multiple sclerosis from developing in animals. Curcumin is emerging as a promising, disease-fighting nutrient, as it also has shown promise in blocking the development of Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University injected 50- and 100-microgram doses of curcumin, three times per week, in a group of mice. These mice were bred to develop an autoimmune condition used as a model for multiple sclerosis because it results in the same gradual erosion of the protective myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers as seen in MS. Throughout the month-long study, the researchers then observed whether the animals developed neurological impairment.

By the time the study was half over, mice untreated with curcumin developed a severe form of the autoimmune condition, with complete paralysis of both hind limbs. On the other hand, mice treated with 50-micrograms of curcumin experienced only minor symptoms, including a temporarily stiff tail. Mice that received the higher 100-microgram dose were completely protected from the MS-like disorder. The mice received doses roughly equivalent to those found in a typical Indian diet.

The researchers hypothesized that curcumin might work by blocking the production of IL-12, a protein that helps signal immune cells to begin attacking the myelin sheath.

Other studies have supported curcumin's ability to protect the nerves. Studies in mice suggest curcumin can slow Alzheimer's. In addition, researchers found low incidences of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's in elderly Indian populations who consume curcumin as a regular part of their diet.

Source: Annual Experimental Biology Conference, New Orleans, April 23, 2002.

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DHEA Prevents Experimental Multiple Sclerosis In Animals

Researchers have discovered that DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) decreases inflammation and stops the development of allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). The study, reported in the December 2001 issue of the Journal of Immunology, investigated both in vitro and in vivo effects of DHEA in mouse cells and in live animals.

First, the researchers added DHEA to cultured spleen cells and noted that it produced anti-inflammatory effects. Then, they administered DHEA to the mice and discovered its in vivo effects mirrored those of the in vitro experiments. When the animals were treated with DHEA, it led to a significant reduction in the severity and incidence of acute EAE, along with decreased inflammation and expressions of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the central nervous system.

'These studies suggest that DHEA has potent anti-inflammatory properties,' wrote the study authors. Based on these results, the researchers believe DHEA may be an alternative treatment to glucocorticoids. While glucocorticoids are associated with adverse effects, DHEA is safe and without dangerous side effects. Therefore, the researchers believe, DHEA may be a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis and other chronic inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system.

Source: Du C, Khalil MW, Sriram S. Administration of dehydroepiandrosterone suppresses experimental allergic encephalomyelitis in SJL/J mice. J Immunol. 2001 Dec 15;167(12):7094-101.

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