Could Low Vitamin D at Birth Mean Higher MS Risk? – WebMD

THURSDAY, Dec. 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Newborns with low levels of vitamin D may have higher odds of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life, new research suggests.

Vitamin D deficiency is common among the general population, including pregnant women. But the researchers said it’s too soon to routinely recommend “sunshine vitamin” supplements for mothers-to-be.

“The study does not prove that increasing vitamin D levels reduces the risk of MS. Further studies are needed to confirm our results,” said study leader Dr. Nete Munk Nielsen, a researcher at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.

About 2.5 million people worldwide have MS. It’s a chronic disease of the central nervous system characterized by damage to myelin, the fatty substance coating nerve fibers. MS symptoms vary, but can include walking difficulties, fatigue, numbness and vision problems.

A growing body of evidence suggests insufficient vitamin D plays a role in MS development, according to background notes with the study. Whether prenatal vitamin D levels are a factor remains up for debate, the researchers noted.

But the new study results are consistent with those of a Finnish study published earlier this year, said Dr. Kassandra Munger, who worked on both studies. She’s a research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

That connection is important to note, said Timothy Coetzee. He’s chief advocacy, services and research officer for the U.S.-based National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which helped fund the new study.

“This is a replication and gives us confidence [in the findings] from a scientific point of view,” Coetzee said.

For the new study, the researchers looked at dried blood spot samples stored in the Danish Newborn Screening Biobank. The researchers identified every Dane born since May 1981, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis by 2012.

The researchers compared the blood spots of 521 people diagnosed with MS with samples from 972 Danes of the same gender and birthday but no MS diagnosis.

Dividing the samples into five groups based on vitamin D concentration, the investigators found that people with the highest levels were about half as likely to develop MS as those in the lowest group.


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