Vitamin D, sunlight, virus & MS… there’s a link!

Taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years may reduce the risk of a child developing MS in later life. It appears that a vitamin D deficiency in mothers even in a previous generation alters the genetics of the child maknig them more likley to develop MS if they are vitamin D deficient. A variation in the recently identified gene, going under the catchy name of DRB1, interacts with vitamin D in such a way that a deficiency in vitamin D may alter its function which is associated with the developement of MS.  According to one of the researchers, ‘Vitamin D is a safe and relatively cheap supplement with substantial potential health benefits. There is accumulating evidence that it can reduce the risk of developing cancer and offer protection from other autoimmune diseases.
With studies in the UK indicating that the MS prevalence rate in England and Wales is between 100 and 140 per 100,000, about 170 in Northern Ireland and as high as 190 per 100,000 in Scotland. Resuts from the Orkney demonstrate rates of over 200 per 100,000.
A study, in Neurology, now suggests that low levels of sunlight could affect how the body responds to infection. The virus that causes glandular fever (aka Epstein-Barr virus) now looks like it plays an important role. According to the lead author, George Ebers MD, “It’s possible that vitamin D deficiency may lead to an abnormal response to the Epstein-Barr virus.” He noted that low sunlight exposure in the spring was most strongly associated with MS risk. “Lower levels of UVB in the spring season correspond with peak risk of MS by birth month. More research should be done on whether increasing UVB exposure or using vitamin D supplements and possible treatments or vaccines for the Epstein-Barr virus could lead to fewer cases of MS.
As always, more research is needed… but there is compelling evidence to support the use of vitamin D supplements especially over the dark winter months.

Further reading:

American Acadamy of Neurology Press Release; Study: Common Virus + Low Sunlight Exposure May Increase Risk of MS.

2007 study; Vitamin D status modulates the immune response to Epstein Barr virus: Synergistic effect of risk factors in multiple sclerosis.

BBC article on low sunlight and the rises of multiple sclerosis risk.

Study finds link between vitamin D and genes in multiple sclerosis University of Oxford.

More information on MS around the world.

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