In the past, there has been an association between lower vitamin D levels and a higher risk of multiple sclerosis. But scientists have now found a genetic correlation that points to a link. Experts say the finding could lead to better treatment and prevention.
In the online journal Public Library of Science Medicines, the lead author of the genetic study — Dr. Brent Richards from McGill University — wrote: “The identification of vitamin D as a causal susceptibility factor for MS may have important public health implications, since vitamin D insufficiency is common, and vitamin D supplementation is both relatively safe and cost-effective.”
The problem with the research is that the scientists couldn’t prove that low vitamin D, which comes from sunlight and certain foods, caused MS; rather, it may have showed up simply because people who were sick tended to stay inside and get less sunlight.
The study, however, does point out that they analyzed the association between genetically reduced vitamin D levels and the likelihood of MS in a pool of 14,498 people with multiple sclerosis and 24,091 healthy controls. Those with genetically lower vitamin D levels face double the risk of getting MS.
“The results show that if a baby is born with genes associated with vitamin D deficiency they are twice as likely as other babies to develop MS as an adult,” explained Benjamin Jacobs, director of Children’s Service at the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital in London, to CTV News. Jacobs, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as “important.”
He added: “This could be because vitamin D deficiency causes MS or possibly because there are other complex genetic interactions. We do not yet know if giving healthy children and adults vitamin D will decrease their risk of developing MS, but clinical trials are being conducted now to study this.”
MS is a chronic disease that affects nearly 2.5 million people worldwide. There is still no cure, but any new news is good news.