High levels of Vitamin D in the blood could prevent multiple sclerosis (MS) in mothers, more so than in babies, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.

Study author Jonatan Salzer, MD and neurologist at Umeå University Hospital says:

“In our study, pregnant women and women in general had a lower risk for MS with higher levels of the vitamin, as expected. However, a mother’s levels of vitamin D during early pregnancy did not have an effect on MS risk for her baby.”

Previous research has told us that low levels of vitamin D decrease risk for developing diabetes. Low vitamin D levels are associated with clinically isolated syndrome, a precursor to MS, as well as the occurrence of a second episode and higher incidence of relapse.

Separate research also suggests that MS is not as prominent in sunnier countries, a possible explanation linking high vitamin D levels to less risk of developing MS. Vitamin D, made in the skin, regulates the immune system and therefore can be extremely helpful in easily treating MS, a condition where the immune system attacks the covering that protects nerve fibers because it recognizes it as foreign to the body.

During the study, a team of researchers analyzed data of 291,599 blood samples from 164,000 people gathered in the northern part of Sweden since 1975. One hundred and ninety-two of these people developed MS, on average nine years after their blood sample was taken. In total, 37 blood samples were taken during pregnancy from mothers whose kids developed MS in the future.

The findings showed that women with high levels of vitamin D in their blood had a risk of developing MS 61 percent lower than those who had low levels of vitamin D in their blood.

In total, only some had high levels of vitamin D. Just seven of 192 people who had MS, approximately four percent, also had high vitamin D levels, in contrast to 30 out of 384 controls, around 8 percent, who did not have the disease.

No link was seen between the mother’s vitamin D level and her offspring developing MS.

Salzar said:

“Since we found no protective effect on the baby for women with higher levels of vitamin D in early pregnancy, our study suggests the protective effect may start in later pregnancy and beyond. Another interesting finding in our study was that the vitamin D levels became gradually lower with time from 1975 and onward. It is possible that this decline in vitamin D status is linked to the increasing numbers of MS cases seen worldwide.”

Sufficient sources of vitamin D include supplements, sun, and certain foods.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald