What other vitamins and minerals are important to people with MS?

Here are a few selected vitamins and minerals that are often mentioned to people with MS. For more information on vitamins and minerals not mentioned here, check with your doctor or dietician.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is needed to build and repair tissues, to help wounds heal, and to help the body absorb iron from plant sources. Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. Some people believe that vitamin C can help prevent bladder infections, which people with MS are prone to. But most evidence shows that this is not true. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for vitamin C is 90 mg for adult males and 75 mg for adult females. Smokers need an extra 35 mg per day. Food sources of vitamin C include fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin D and calcium: Your body needs calcium to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium. Having strong bones helps prevent osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become thin and break easily. People with MS are more likely to get osteoporosis than those without MS, so prevention is important. Vitamin D also may help prevent MS in people who do not yet have the condition – see "What's the link between vitamin D and the risk of MS?" in this feature for more information. The RDA for calcium for most adults is 1000-1200 mg. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU to 800 IU. Food sources of calcium include milk products and calcium-enriched soy products. Vitamin D can be found in fish oils and fortified breads or cereals.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12, also called cyanocobalamin, helps with blood cell production and protecting nerves. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage that has similar symptoms to MS. There is no proof that vitamin B12 supplements can improve or prevent MS. But people with MS are more likely to have low levels of vitamin B12 in their blood. Since they already have nerve damage, low vitamin B12 levels could add to this problem. If you have low levels of vitamin B12, your doctor will likely recommend a supplement to prevent nerve damage due to B12 deficiency. Food sources of vitamin B12 include animal products such as eggs, meat, and dairy. The RDA of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms (µg) per day.

Zinc: Zinc is involved in many chemical reactions in the body, including cell division and repair. It is not known whether zinc levels in people with MS are higher or lower than average (there are studies to support both possibilities). Some research suggests that zinc may make MS worse by increasing the activity of the immune system. Until more is known, people with MS should not take more than the RDA of zinc. Zinc's RDA is 11 mg per day for men and pregnant women, and 8 mg per day for women who are not pregnant or breast-feeding.

For good health, people with MS should get their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of all vitamins and minerals. The RDA is the daily dose of a vitamin or mineral needed to prevent a deficiency. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much of each vitamin and mineral you should be getting. Don't take high doses of any vitamins or minerals without checking with your doctor first. Many vitamins and minerals can harm your health if you take too much. See "Too much of a good thing: can you overdose on vitamins and minerals?" in this feature for more information.

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