The finding of a new study suggests that by increasing Vitamin D levels in blood many cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) could be prevented. Previous researches have shown that vitamin D supplements can prevent or slow down the progress of a disease similar to MS in mice.
MS is one of the most common neurological diseases affecting around two million people worldwide. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease caused by attacking of the myelin sheath (the covering found on the nerves) by specialized T helper 1 cells.
The present study compared the levels of vitamin D in 257 blood serum samples of multiple sclerosis cases which were identified through Army and Navy physical disability databases from 7 million samples of U.S. military personnel stored in the Department of Defense Serum Repository.
The study results show that among white people, the risk for MS is least among those with the highest vitamin D levels, and maximum for those with the lowest vitamin D levels.
It was found that among white personnel, there was a 41% decrease in risk of MS for every 50 Nan moles per liter increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a form of the vitamin found in the blood.
'We established with a certain degree of confidence that people with high vitamin D levels have a lower risk of developing MS. What we don't know for sure if increasing their vitamin D levels will actually prevent MS,' said the lead researcher Dr. Alberto Ascherio.
He added: 'If confirmed, this finding suggests that many cases of MS could be prevented by increasing vitamin D levels.
'The results of this study converge with a growing body of experimental evidence supporting the importance of vitamin D in regulating the immune system and suppressing auto-immune reactions, which are thought by most experts to play a key role in the development of MS.'
Scientists arrived at the theory that vitamin D plays a significant role in protecting against MS after observing data that suggested the condition was more common in countries farthest from the equator.
People in these countries are exposed to less sunlight, which triggers a chemical reaction in the body leading to vitamin D production.
'Our findings suggest that vitamin D may have a direct impact on MS risk,' added Ascherio. 'If we confirm that the vitamin is protective, we could potentially prevent thousands of cases of MS a year in the United States alone.'
Around 350,000 new cases of MS are diagnosed in the U.S. every year and this disease is more common among women than men.