Monday, September 18, 2017 by Frances Bloomfield
The link between vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis has been strengthened in a new study. According to the findings, published in Neurology, checking vitamin D levels in the blood can help determine and assess the risk of this debilitating neurological disease. As explained by lead study author Dr. Kassandra Munger: “There have only been a few small studies suggesting that levels of vitamin D in the blood can predict risk. Our study, involving a large number of women, suggests that correcting vitamin D deficiency in young and middle-age women may reduce their future risk of [multiple sclerosis].”
For their study, Munger and her team evaluated the blood samples of over 800,000 women from Finland, which were taken for the prenatal testing in the Finnish Maternity Cohort. They then identified 1,092 women who developed multiple sclerosis nine years after their blood was tested. These women were compared against 2,123 age-matched study participants who were not diagnosed with the disease.
Of the women who had multiple sclerosis, 58 percent had vitamin D deficiency, while 52 percent of the women who did not develop multiple sclerosis had the same issue . The researchers specified deficient levels of vitamin D as being less than 30 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).
Moreover, they fond that women who already had a deficiency of vitamin D were 43 percent more like to acquire multiple sclerosis than women who had normal levels of vitamin D (defined as 50 nmol/L or higher), and 27 percent more likely to develop the disease than women with insufficient vitamin D levels.
Additionally, the researchers further noted that each 50 nmol/L increase of vitamin D cut down the risk of multiple sclerosis by as much as 39 percent.
“More research is needed on the optimal dose of vitamin D for reducing risk of MS. But striving to achieve vitamin D sufficiency over the course of a person’s life will likely have multiple health benefits.” Munger told the DailyMail.co.uk. (Related: Multiple sclerosis and vitamin D connection makes winter sun essential.)
Multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated disorder wherein the immune system attacks the various parts of the body that are necessary for everyday function. The myelin sheath, which is the protective covering of nerve cells, becomes damaged over time, making it more difficult for the nerve cells to work properly and deliver messages throughout the body. This in turn leads to diminished brain and spinal cord function, which then affects numerous parts of the body, making it harder to move, eat, and even see.
The cause of multiple sclerosis remains unknown, though there are many factors that greatly increase the risk of the disease. Sex, ethnicity, age, and location can all influence the likelihood of multiple-sclerosis. Countries located further away from the equator have larger populations of people with multiple sclerosis, hence why some scientists assert that there is a strong association between this disorder and vitamin D deficiency.
The most common source of vitamin D is sunlight. Once the skin has absorbed sunlight, the cholesterol in the skin converts it into the chemicals that eventually become vitamin D. While the exact mechanisms are still undergoing study, it’s been found that vitamin D actually has a hand in the health of the immune and nervous system, both bodily systems that are most affected by multiple sclerosis. One suggestion is that vitamin D can decrease inflammation of the immune system and make it less likely to attack other cells.
Daily exposure to sunlight is still the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. There are food sources of this vitamin too, such as salmon, herring, tuna, oysters, and egg yolks. Non-fish sources include raw milk, soy milk, orange juice, and oatmeal. Mushrooms are a notable source of vitamin D as well, and stand out for being the only known plant source of this essential nutrient.
Visit Prevention.news for even more stories about what vitamin deficiency can do to your body.