Researchers conducting a new study are saying that vitamin D deficiency might actually be directly responsible for causing multiple sclerosis (MS). This discovery might have significant public health implications as according to the researches, a large number of people are deficient of this essential vitamin.
The findings of the study might assist in explaining the reasons behind the rates of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease known for damaging nerve fibers and leaving the patient disabled, being high in northern Europe and other high-latitude regions.
These are places with very few sunny days. For those who don’t know: sunrays trigger a chemical reaction in our skin, which results in production of vitamin D.
Studies conducted earlier have also suggested that there’s a link between lower levels of vitamin D and increased MS risk. However, unlike this new study, none of those studies could demonstrate a genetic connection pointing strongly towards a casual association.
During the study, the researchers scoured DNA of a total of 33,996 participants. This scouring allowed them to identify four single-letter variants in the genetic code, each of which was associated closely with a known vitamin D blood maker.
After comparing thousands of patients with MS with healthy people, the researchers found that individuals whose genetic makeup had links with vitamin D deficiency (this means they had fewer biomarker variants) were a minimum of two times more likely to develop MS.
According to the researchers conducting the study, identification of this vitamin as a casual MS risk factor might have extremely significant public health implications. This is because vitamin D deficiency is a common health issue, and supplementation of this vitamin is both relatively cost-effective and safe.
The researchers said that the significance of these findings might be more in high-altitude regions i.e. regions where rates of both vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis are higher.
The findings of the study showed that the risk of multiple sclerosis doubled for every standard deviation decrease in genetic variant associated with a vitamin D biomarker. For those who don’t know: the term “standard deviation” is used for a numerical measurement of variation or disparity from a given average.
The scientists concluded that the findings clearly showed that vitamin D plays a casual role in an individual’s susceptibility towards developing multiple sclerosis.