-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Lower prenatal levels of
vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," may mean that babies born in
April have the highest risk of developing multiple sclerosis later
in life while those born in October have the lowest risk, a new
The findings show that pregnant women who live in countries with
low levels of sunlight between October and March should take
vitamin D supplements in order to protect their children from MS,
according to the researchers.
Vitamin D is synthesized naturally by the skin as it makes
contact with sunlight. During fall and winter months, however,
people in northern countries may not receive sufficient amounts of
sunlight on their skin to enable the body to make enough vitamin D,
the study authors explained.
A team led by Dr. Ram Ramagopalan of Queen Mary University of
London analyzed previously published data on nearly 152,000 people
with MS in northern countries. They found that people born in April
had a 5 percent increased risk of MS, while those born in warmer,
sunnier months -- between October and November -- had a 5 percent
to 7 percent reduced risk of the neurological disorder.
No data from countries in the southern hemisphere was analyzed
by the researchers, largely due to a lack of studies.
The findings provide "the most robust evidence to date" that a
person's month of birth affects their risk for MS. The results also
highlight the need for studies to determine whether taking vitamin
D supplements during pregnancy can help prevent MS in children, the
Two experts in the United States said the findings make
"I would agree that there is evidence that would support Vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women in certain areas," said Dr. Karen Blitz-Shabbir, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.
"We are well aware that populations further from the equator have a higher incidence of MS," she added. "We also have new studies emerging demonstrating vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial to people with MS. The full story on how vitamin D impacts this disease is still unfolding."
And Dr. Fred Lublin, director of the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson
Center for Multiple Sclerosis at the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine, in New York City, said the study "provides further
evidence for a link between birth month and risk of MS."
Still, he said that although "the authors raise the question of
whether vitamin D supplementation could mitigate the risk, this
would need to be proven in a clinical trial."
The study was published online Nov. 14 in the
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Although
it showed an association between birth month and MS risk, it did
not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
has more about
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