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Vitamin D May Cut Multiple Sclerosis Risk

Study: Low Levels of Vitamin D May Boost Multiple Sclerosis Gene Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 6, 2009 -- Getting enough vitamin D early in life may cut the odds of developing multiple sclerosis, researchers report.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is more common in parts of the world far from the equator, where the sun wanes during winter. During that seasonal sunshine shortfall, it's harder for the body to make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

With that in mind, British and Canadian scientists studied a gene variant that triples the risk of multiple sclerosis -- and they found that that gene is sensitive to vitamin D.

"If too little of the vitamin is available, the gene may not function properly," making multiple sclerosis more likely, Julian Knight, MBChB, DPhil, says in a news release. Knight works at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at England's University of Oxford.

Knight and colleagues suggest that because vitamin D deficiency is common, taking vitamin D supplements early in life might cut MS risk. But they didn't test that theory, and they're not recommending certain vitamin D doses for MS prevention.

The study appears in PLoS Genetics. "PLoS" is short for "Public Library of Science."

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