Posted Feb 11, 2009
TAKING vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and in the early years of life could reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, research suggested yesterday.
Scientists have discovered that the chances of developing MS are influenced by vitamin D levels coupled with a common gene variant.
Children with the genetic mutation may be more at risk of developing the disease if they lack vitamin D while growing in the womb or during their early years of life.
The researchers suggest that as a precaution, mothers should take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy or give them to their young children.
Vitamin D is produced by the sun’s rays reaching the skin, with northern countries with cloudier weather having higher rate of vitamin D deficiency.
The findings of the latest study could help explain why Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world – estimated at up to 200 cases per 100,000 people compared with 120 in England and Wales.
The largest genetic influence on MS comes from a gene variant called DRB1*1501 and neighbouring DNA sequences.
While one in 1,000 people in the UK is likely to develop MS, the incidence rises to around one in 300 for those carrying a single copy of the variant.
People with two variant copies of the gene pair have a one in 100 chance of developing the disease.
Researchers at Oxford University and the University of British Columbia in Canada established a direct relationship between DRB1*1501 and vitamin D.
Date: Feb 9, 2009