Vitamin D is a special vitamin, in that it is the only vitamin that sunlight converts to its active form. To accomplish this, the skin needs to be exposed to sunlight. UVB light from the sun strikes the skin, and humans synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is not synthesized by humans but can be taken as a supplement. Many people have vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. This can be due to living in a less sunny environment, wearing a lot of sunscreen or having darker skin complexions. Vitamin D helps with calcium and phosphorus absorption and therefore bone metabolism. It also has some anti-inflammatory effects, heart protecting effects and there are links between vitamin D deficiency and some types of cancer. Deficiency could result in issues with any of these above–but how does it affect ALS?
Vitamin D was studied in ALS because of its potential anti-inflammatory effects and because its receptors are present on some types of neurons in the brain. Patients living with ALS have slightly lower vitamin D levels than the general population but when this was analyzed, it did not take into account confounding factors such as less sun exposure from being homebound. There is no clear relationship between vitamin D levels and the ALSFRSr or progression of the disease. At this time, we do not have evidence to support that vitamin D supplementation plays a significant role in ALS diagnosis or prognosis. It has, however, proven itself important for other areas of well being, therefore our Synapticure team still often recommends supplementation for low or deficient levels. So while vitamin D’s ability to modify the ALS disease process has not been proven, it still remains vital for general good health and I always make sure vitamin D levels have been checked on my patients. Note that vitamin D does have the potential to be toxic when taken in very high quantities. The dosage is based on your current blood level. Too much vitamin D can cause high levels of calcium which can cause very serious neurological problems. It is always important to check with your physician before starting a vitamin D supplement regimen.
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.”
~ Walt Whitman