It is estimated by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation 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.

» 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.

The researchers learned four genetic variants influence vitamin D levels found in the blood.  People can have different combinations of these genetic variations.  They found people with a combination of the genetic variations giving them lower levels of vitamin D had double the risk of MS.

But what the study does not tell us is whether MS could be prevented in those at higher risk by increasing their vitamin D levels through taking supplements or other methods.

» References