[From Daily Mail]
Taking vitamin D supplements in pregnancy and childhood could wipe out 80 per cent of multiple sclerosis cases, researchers believe.
A study has shown the ‘ sunshine vitamin’ controls a gene that greatly raises the odds of the devastating disease.
Boosting levels in the womb and early in life could prevent 2,000 of the 2,500 cases diagnosed each year in the UK, it found.
Describing the implications as ‘staggering’, study leader Professor George Ebers said: ‘The cost for the lifetime of an MS patient is about £1million to £2million.
‘If you could prevent 80 per cent of the cases, we are talking about billions of pounds.’
Vitamin D is found in foods, but most of that absorbed by the body comes from sunlight.
The Oxford University professor’s study builds on previous research showing northern countries, which have less sunlight, tend to have a higher incidence of MS.
In Scotland, where up to two-thirds of people lack vitamin-D at the end of the winter, the MS rate is ten times that of Brazil.
In England, where an estimated half of the population is low in the vitamin when winter ends, there is twice the incidence of Spain.
The study demonstrates that vitamin D controls the activity of a gene that increases the odds of MS.
Researchers discovered its use can prevent MS sufferers’ immune systems attacking the fatty sheath that insulates the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord.
Some sufferers endure mild, intermittent symptoms for decades, others rapidly deteriorate-becoming blind or paralysed. There is no cure.
The research also demonstrates that the effects of vitamin D deficiency can pass through the generations, with not just a woman’s children but her grandchildren and great-grandchildren being at heightened risk.
Professor Ebers said: ‘We have known for a long time that genes and environment determine MS risk.
‘Here we can show that the main environmental risk candidate – vitamin D – and the main gene region are directly linked and interact.
‘There is no question one needs to be concerned about predominant and widespread efforts to limit people’s exposure to the sun. It may have consequences that won’t be apparent for many years.’
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