Vitamin D Deficiency May Cause Multiple Sclerosis

Phillip Dengler

Vitamin D deficiency may be a direct cause of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study. For years, it has been theorized that multiple sclerosis may be related to lower levels of vitamin D in the blood. Scientists have now found a genetic correlation, according to the Guardian.

According to the study, scientists looked at the DNA of 33,996 participants. They concluded that those who had genes that were associated with a vitamin D deficiency had double the chance of developing multiple sclerosis. While these findings show vitamin D deficiency plays a casual role in the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, it is important to remember this is a complicated disease with many factors. Just because someone has a deficiency, does not mean they are on their way to developing MS. Even if someone has optimal levels of vitamin D, does not mean they cannot develop MS.

"Whether vitamin D sufficiency can delay or prevent multiple sclerosis onset merits further investigation in long-term randomized controlled trials," the scientists in the study said.

Regardless, it is still in everyone's best interest to optimize his or her levels of vitamin D. Since more people in high-latitude countries develop MS, many doctors and scientists started to theorize that lack of vitamin D could be a risk factor. The higher the latitude, the weaker the sun rays that are able to produce vitamin D. A study by Medscape confirmed the positive association between MS and latitude in 2011.

For years, doctors have advised us to always wear sunscreen when going outside. While sunscreen is still important in order to prevent burns, we may be preventing our bodies from absorbing vitamin D. According to Medicine Plus, 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight three times a week is enough for fair skinned people to reach their requirement of vitamin D. Those with darker skin may need to spend more time in the sun to reach optimal levels of vitamin D in their blood. In order to prevent burns, sunscreen should be applied after the initial 10 to 15 minutes, or you should cover your body and face with clothing and hats.

Since it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, responsible time in the sun and supplements are critical in order to achieve optimal levels. If it is the wintertime or you are not able to make it out in the sun during the day, you should ask your doctor about a supplement. While it is not possible to develop vitamin D toxicity from the sun, it is possible when taking supplements. The rare condition can happen when taking in 50,000 internal units a day for a period of months, according to Mayo Clinic. Before taking a vitamin D supplement, you should have your levels tested and confirm a dosage with your physician.

[Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]