An Update on Vitamin D and Disease Activity in Multiple Sclerosis

Joost Smolders, Øivind Torkildsen, William Camu, Trygve Holmøy

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Vitamin D and its main active metabolite 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D serve a crucial role in maintenance of a healthy calcium metabolism, yet have additional roles in immune and central nervous system cell homeostasis. Serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are a biomarker of future disease activity in patients with early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), and vitamin D supplementation in patients with low circulating 25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels has been anticipated as a potential efficacious treatment strategy. The results of the first large randomized clinical trials (RCTs), the SOLAR and CHOLINE studies, have now been published. The SOLAR study compared 14,000 IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) per day with placebo for 48 weeks in 232 randomized patients, whereas CHOLINE compared vitamin D3 100,000 IU every other week with placebo for 96 weeks in 129 randomized patients. All patients in both studies also used interferon-β-1a. None of the studies met their primary endpoints, which were no evidence of disease activity (NEDA-3) at 48 weeks in SOLAR and annualized relapse rate at 96 weeks in CHOLINE. Both studies did, however, suggest modest effects on secondary endpoints. Thus, vitamin D reduced the number of new or enlarging lesions and new T2 lesions in SOLAR, and the annualized relapse rate and number of new T1 lesions, volume of hypointense T1 lesions, and disability progression in the 90 patients who completed 96 weeks' follow-up in CHOLINE. We conclude that none of the RCTs on vitamin supplementation in MS have met their primary clinical endpoint in the intention to treat cohorts. This contrasts the observation studies, where each 25 nmol/l increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were associated with 14-34% reduced relapse risk and 15-50% reduced risk of new lesions on magnetic resonnance imaging. This discrepancy may have several explanations, including confounding and reverse causality in the observational studies. The power calculations of the RCTs have been based on the observational studies, and the RCTs may have been underpowered to detect less prominent yet important effects of vitamin D supplementation. Although the effect of vitamin D supplementation is uncertain and less pronounced than suggested by observational studies, current evidence still support that people with MS should avoid vitamin D insufficiency, and preferentially aim for vitamin D levels around 100 nmol/L or somewhat higher.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1187-1199
JournalCNS Drugs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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