Monday, February 9, 2009

More for expectant mothers: Will your vitamin D deficiency lead to Multiple Sclerosis in your children?

A new multiple sclerosis (MS) study has shown that vitamin D has the ability to reduce a genetic susceptibility to the disease by reducing the force of genes that lead to MS.[1] In other words, vitamin D reduces the action of genes that trigger the autoimmune response leading to the disease. The researchers indicated that vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and early in life might act to prevent the disease.

In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin sheath—insulation that surrounds nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. When nerve tissue loses its myelin sheath, it is analogous to electric wiring that has lost its rubber insulation; it fails to carry the body’s electrical impulses properly and becomes “short circuited.” Those who suffer from MS experience numbness, poor coordination and balance, weakness, stiffness and poor vision.

This study simply gives one more reason to believe that vitamin D is a major player in reducing the risk of MS. The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight during spring, summer and early fall; the more sunlight available, the more vitamin D is produced. It has been known for about 70 years that MS is much less prevalent in sunny, warm areas. More recent research has also shown that in Australia, there is a seven-fold increase in MS incidence between tropical Northern Queensland and Southern Hobart, located in the less sunny part of the country.[2] And when we observe the rates of MS worldwide, the geographical distribution of MS confirms the direct correlation between latitude and MS; the further from the equator, where there is less sunlight, the greater the incidence of MS.[3] [4] [5] There is more than 100 times the rate of MS in far northern areas as in equatorial areas, where sunlight is intense and the rate of MS approaches zero!

For a complete discussion of MS, see my chapter on the subject in my book. Meanwhile, If behooves all parents to be sure that they, their spouses and their children have high levels of vitamin D. The optimal levels are 50-60 ng/ml. Moderate, non-burning sunlight exposure is the most natural way to obtain vitamin D.

[1] Ramagopalan, S. et al. Expression of the multiple sclerosis-associated MHC class II Allele HLA-DRB1*1501 is regulated by vitamin D. PLoS Genet. 2009 Feb;5(2):e1000369. Epub 2009 Feb 6.
[2] McLeod, J. et al. Epidemiology of multiple sclerosis in Australia. With NSW and SA survey results. Med J Aust 1994;160:117-22.
[3] Alter, M. et al. Multiple sclerosis and nutrition. Arch Neurol l974;31:267-72.
[4] Kurtkze, J. et al. Geography in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol 1977;215:1-26.
[5] Hayes, C. et al. Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1997;216:21-27.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have been reporting on this study and keep reporting continuously about studies and breaking news on vitamin D - albeit in German - at our Weblog Sonne ist Leben