MS is a neurological disorder and vitamin B12 is known to be important for maintaining nerve function. Vitamin B12 deficiency can produce symptoms similar to those seen in MS. However, MS and vitamin B12 deficiency are not the same condition. A lack of vitamin B12 can damage nerves, but no available research suggests that high levels of B12 improve nerve function.
From research concerning vitamin B12 levels in MS, it is clear that most people with the disease have normal levels. However, there may be a small subpopulation of people with MS who have vitamin B12 deficiency. Therefore, people suspected of having MS should be tested for vitamin B12 deficiency. Only if levels are low should vitamin B12 injections or pills be considered. Follow-up is necessary, as lifetime therapy is often needed to treat vitamin B12 deficiency. In general, vitamin B12 supplements are well tolerated. However, rare cases of rashes, itching, and diarrhea have been reported.
References and Additional Reading
Bowling AC. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007.
Bowling AC, Stewart TS. Dietary Supplements and Multiple Sclerosis: A Health Professional’s Guide. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2004.
Jellin JM, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2009.
Ulbricht CE, Basch EM, eds. Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference: Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews. St. Louis: Elsevier-Mosby, 2005.