Numerous studies have shown suboptimal vitamin D status in populations at high geographical latitudes, owing to a reduced capacity to synthesise vitamin D, especially during wintertime. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to be effective at maintaining adequate vitamin D status throughout the year in these countries. Classically reported to play a central role in bone health, vitamin D has more recently been shown to modulate immune function by promoting an anti-inflammatory response, which may be related to onset or progression of autoimmune inflammatory disorders. One such condition is multiple sclerosis (MS). There is an increasing incidence of MS with increasing latitude, with higher prevalence reported in countries further away from the equator, where vitamin D synthesis is inadequate. Vitamin D has been shown to have positive effects on the animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. However, there have been few human intervention studies to investigate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of MS or indeed of other autoimmune disorders. Further research is required to examine the potential beneficial role of vitamin D in MS to ultimately determine the optimal vitamin D status required to alleviate symptoms and possibly prevent this and other chronic diseases.
Keywords: Vitamin D, vitamin D status, vitamin D supplementation, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, latitude