Low vitamin-D genes linked to MS

People genetically prone to low vitamin-D levels are at increased risk of multiple sclerosis, a large study suggests.

The findings, based on the DNA profiles of tens of thousands of people, add weight to the theory that the sunshine vitamin plays a role in MS.

Scientists are already testing whether giving people extra vitamin D might prevent or ease MS.

It is likely that environmental and genetic factors are involved in this disease of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, they say.

And if you think you may not be getting sufficient vitamin D from sunlight or your diet, you should discuss this with your doctor. Taking too much vitamin D can also be dangerous.

Vitamin D

  • Is important for healthy bones
  • We make it in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight, but some of it comes from our diet
  • Good food sources include oily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and fortified fat spreads
  • Some people - the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, children under the age of five, and those who do not get much sun - may not get enough and need supplements

Research around the world already shows MS is more common in less sunny countries, further from the equator.

The findings indicated people with lower blood levels of a marker of vitamin D, due to their genetic predisposition, were significantly more likely to have MS than individuals without these genes.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, said: "There are many unanswered questions around what causes MS, so this large scale study is an exciting step towards understanding more about the complex nature of the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to it.

"There are guidelines around how much vitamin D people should take, and taking too much can lead to side-effects, so we'd encourage people to talk to their health professional if they're thinking of doing this.

Immunologist Prof Danny Altmann, said: "Vitamin D is relatively cheap, safe and many of us would be all the healthier if we could achieve the serum levels that our ancient ancestors presumably acquired when roaming outdoors in temperate climates, unclothed and eating a diverse diet including oily fish.

"While it may be too much to expect therapeutic vitamin D to treat or reverse ongoing MS, this research will add to the weight of argument for routine vitamin-D supplementation of foodstuffs as a broad, preventative, public health measure."


Source: BBC