While doctors have long esteemed vitamin D as good for developing babies, a new study shows that it may be even more beneficial for moms. Elevated levels of vitamin D in the blood could prevent multiple sclerosis (MS) in mothers, according to a new study published in Neurology journal.
Previous research shows that low levels of vitamin D are associated with clinically isolated syndrome, a precursor to MS. Vitamin D deficiencies also lead to an increased risk of diabetes. Since sunlight is an important source of vitamin D, pregnant women who live in colder climates are often encouraged to up their intake of vitamin D during pregnancy.
This new study, however, shows that high levels of vitamin D are possibly even more important for mom than for baby.
Study author Dr. Jonatan Salzer, a neurologist at Umeå University Hospital, says of the study:
“In our study, pregnant women and women in general had a lower risk for MS with higher levels of the vitamin, as expected. However, a mother’s levels of vitamin D during early pregnancy did not have an effect on MS risk for her baby.”
In the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 300,000 blood samples from 164,000 people in northern Sweden. The samples date back as far as 1975. Of these people, 192 developed MS on average nine years after their blood sample was taken. In total, 37 blood samples were taken during pregnancy from mothers whose children later developed MS.
These findings show that women with high levels of vitamin D in their blood had a risk of developing MS 61 percent lower than those who had low levels of the vitamin in their blood.
No link was seen between the mother’s vitamin D level and her offspring developing MS, meaning that increased levels of vitamin D, while beneficial to the fetus in other ways, is more beneficial for a mother’s health in regards to MS.
“Since we found no protective effect on the baby for women with higher levels of vitamin D in early pregnancy, our study suggests the protective effect may start in later pregnancy and beyond. Another interesting finding in our study was that the vitamin D levels became gradually lower with time from 1975 and onward. It is possible that this decline in vitamin D status is linked to the increasing numbers of MS cases seen worldwide.”
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease in which body’s immune system attacks its own nerve fibers. It is also more commonly seen in those born in colder, darker months of the year.
British researchers have stated, “Month of birth has a significant effect of subsequent MS risk.” They noted that more babies who later develop MS are born in April — after cold, winter months — than in November, after summer.
“This is likely to be due to ultraviolet light exposure and maternal Vitamin D levels.”
Research likewise suggests that MS is not as prominent in sunnier countries, a possible explanation linking high vitamin D levels to decreased risk of developing MS. Vitamin D is made in the skin and regulates the immune system. It can therefore be extremely helpful in treating MS.