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August 2018

Use of Vitamins and Dietary Supplements by Patients With Multiple Sclerosis: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, Neuroimmunology Section, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri
JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(8):1013-1021. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.0611

Importance  Surveys of patients with multiple sclerosis report that most are interested in modifying their diet and using supplements to potentially reduce the severity and symptoms of the disease. This review provides an updated overview of the current state of evidence for the role that vitamins and dietary supplements play in multiple sclerosis and its animal models, with an emphasis on recent studies, and addresses biological plausibility and safety issues.

Observations  Several vitamins and dietary supplements have been recently explored both in animal models and by patients with multiple sclerosis. Most human trials have been small or nonblinded, limiting their generalizability. Biotin and vitamin D are currently being tested in large randomized clinical trials. Smaller trials are ongoing or planned for other supplements such as lipoic acid and probiotics. The results of these studies may help guide clinical recommendations.

Conclusions and Relevance  At the present time, the only vitamin with sufficient evidence to support routine supplementation for patients with multiple sclerosis is vitamin D. Vitamin deficiencies should be avoided. It is important for clinicians to know which supplements their patients are taking and to educate patients on any known efficacy data, along with any potential medication interactions and adverse effects of individual supplements. Given that dietary supplements and vitamins are not subject to the same regulatory oversight as prescription pharmaceuticals in the United States, it is recommended that vitamins and supplements be purchased from reputable manufacturers with the United States Pharmacopeia designation.

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