A few minutes of sun exposure a few times a day may be a pretty safe way to reduce risk of multiple sclerosis. Higher vitamin D levels also appear to be protective
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It damages the myelin sheath, the protective covering of nerve cells. MS slows down or blocks messages between the brain and the body. MS is more prevalent in temperate latitudes and becomes less common toward the equator. People of Northern European descent are most affected. There is no perfect cure for MS.Effective strategies are available to modify the course of the disease. It is in this context that the newly published study from Australia gains significance.
Sunlight exposes the body to both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Vitamin D production increases mainly with exposure to UVB. Researchers say that some of the protection against MS could come from UVA rays. The study had 611 participants. The level of sun exposure during different periods of their lives was asked for. Blood levels of vitamin D and skin damage due to sun exposure were measured.
It was found that people with the most evidence of skin damage from sun exposure were about 60% less likely to develop MS symptoms than people with the least sun damage. High levels of vitamin D were also found to be protective. People with high blood levels of vitamin D were also less likely to have early signs of MS. Vitamin has been propagated as a natural inhibitor of multiple sclerosis for a while. Previous studies had found that low vitamin D levels to be associated with higher risk for MS. Some suggested vitamin D supplements.
The findings were published in the February issue of Neurology. The very fact that the study included people who had not yet been diagnosed with MS adds more credibility to the results. Authors agree that the relationship between sun exposure and multiple sclerosis may be more complicated than we originally thought. A safe level of sun exposure is yet to be worked out. Skin type, sun intensity, and a number of other factors come into play. The potential risk posed by sun burn in causing skin cancer has to be considered. Researchers are not in a position to suggest a healthy balance.
The protective effect of higher vitamin D levels and exposure to sunlight appear to be independent of each other. It is wise to wait for more extensive researches to be out so as to shed more clarity.