Researches have shown that individuals deficient in vitamin D may be susceptible to multiple sclerosis.
The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimate that more than 400,000 people in the US have multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It is hard to predict, its rate of progress is difficult to figure and researches do not fully understand its causes. It is the most widespread disabling and permanent neurological condition affecting young adults across the world.
A number of genetic and environmental factors influence whether a person will develop the condition. These factors may also impact the severity of the disease. Research is increasingly pointing to a reduced level of vitamin D in the blood as a risk factor for developing MS.
In this latest paper, Dr. Brent Richards, from McGill University in Canada, wrote:
"Other investigations that examine disease patterns in populations suggest an association between lower vitamin D level and an increased risk of MS but cannot prove that a decreased vitamin D level actually causes MS."
Previous studies have shown that prevalence of MS is greater at higher latitudes where there is decreased levels of sunlight exposure.
The team at McGill examined whether there is an association between genetically reduced vitamin D levels and susceptibility to MS.
An approach called "Mendelian randomization" was used as it improves understanding of the role played by environmental factors in causing common chronic diseases.
Deficiency in vitamin D may be a causal risk factor
The researchers measured the vitamin D levels - as determined by 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations - of 2,347 individuals who were part of the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium study, the largest genetic association study to date for MS, which includes 14,498 people with MS and 24,091 healthy controls.
Explaining what the study found, the researchers say:
"These findings show that, among the participants, all of whom were of European ancestry, genetically lowered vitamin D levels were strongly associated with increased susceptibility to MS."
There is as yet no cure for MS, and many medications available to treat symptoms of the condition pose serious side effects and significant risks.
"Ongoing randomized controlled trials are currently assessing vitamin D supplementation for the treatment and prevention of multiple sclerosis [...] and may therefore provide needed insights into the role of vitamin D supplementation," say Dr. Richards and colleagues.
The authors feel that these findings warrant further investigation of the potential therapeutic benefits of vitamin D supplementation in preventing the onset and progression of MS.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study linked vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of schizophrenia.
Written by Jonathan Vernon