Low vitamin D may increase risk for multiple sclerosis – UPI.com
MONTREAL, Aug. 26 (UPI) – Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, researchers found in a new study.
Previous studies have indicated that insufficient levels of vitamin D in MS patients are common. The researchers said, however, this is the first study to show the deficiency increases risk for the disease, and that increasing levels of vitamin D may help to lower the risk.
“Our finding is important from a public health perspective because vitamin D insufficiency is common, especially in northern countries like Canada where exposure to sunlight — a common natural source of vitamin D — is decreased through the long winter and where we see disproportionately high rates of MS,” said Dr. Brent Richards, associate professor of medicine and human genetics at McGill University, in a press release.
After establishing four genetic variants associated with lower vitamin D levels, the researchers conducted a genome-wide study using health data on 14,498 people with MS and 24,091 people without the disease. They found that a genetic decrease of the natural use of vitamin D could be linked to a doubling of the risk for developing MS. The researchers wrote that, based on this, increasing vitamin D levels by 1.5 times in a patient should reduce the risk of MS by 50 percent.
The researchers expect that further studies will be conducted on the the effects of increasing vitamin D in current patients with MS, as well as those at risk for it.
“We would recommend that individuals, particularly those with a family history of MS, should ensure that they maintain adequate vitamin D levels,” Richards said. “This is a common sense precaution, given that vitamin D supplementation is generally safe and inexpensive.”
The study is published in PLOS Medicine.