Feb. 9, 2010 -- Pregnant women who drink plenty of milk may be protecting
their child from developing multiple sclerosis (MS) in the future.
MS is a nervous system disease that attacks the material, called myelin,
that covers nerve fibers. This disrupts signaling between nerves and
causes nerve damage, leading to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, fatigue,
loss of vision, and possibly, paralysis. The disease most often strikes adults
after age 20, but it can develop in children.
Growing evidence has suggested that vitamin D, found in fortified milk, may
lower one’s risk of MS. Now, researchers with the Harvard School of Public
Health in Boston have shown that it’s possible this protective benefit could
begin while a baby is developing in the womb.
The study involved more than 35,000 female nurses whose mothers answered
questions about their diet habits during pregnancy. It revealed that women born
to mothers who had the highest intake of vitamin D had a much lower risk of
developing MS as an adult. Among the nurses studied, 199 developed MS over the
16-year study period.
"The risk of MS among daughters whose mothers consumed four glasses of milk
per day was 56% lower than daughters whose mothers consumed less than three
glasses of milk per month," Harvard researcher Fariba Mirzaei, MD, says in a
"We also found the risk of MS among daughters whose mothers were in the top
20% of vitamin D intake during pregnancy was 45% lower than daughters whose
mothers were in the bottom 20% for vitamin D intake during pregnancy."
Vitamin D is found in certain foods and beverages such as fortified milk and
cereals, and fatty fish such as salmon. However, few foods naturally contain
the vitamin. Your body also makes vitamin D after the skin absorbs some of the
sun’s rays. Sunlight is one of the most important sources of vitamin D.
Researchers will present their findings in April at the American
Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto.