WCTRMS: Vitamin D Status Linked to Multiple Sclerosis

September 22, 2008

In children with a first demyelinating event, those with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to progress to multiple sclerosis, and the incidence of first demyelinating events is significantly greater at higher latitudes, where the sun's rays are weaker and vitamin D insufficiency is more common, according to research presented at the World Congress on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis held Sept. 17 to 20 in Montreal, Canada.

MONDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- In children with a first demyelinating event, those with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to progress to multiple sclerosis, and the incidence of first demyelinating events is significantly greater at higher latitudes, where the sun's rays are weaker and vitamin D insufficiency is more common, according to research presented at the World Congress on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis held Sept. 17 to 20 in Montreal, Canada.

In one study, Heather E. Hanwell, of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues studied 125 children with a first demyelinating event, 20 (16 percent) of whom subsequently developed multiple sclerosis. They identified baseline vitamin D insufficiency in 85 (68 percent) of the subjects and found that mean serum levels were significantly lower in children who progressed to multiple sclerosis than in those who did not (47.6 nmol/L versus 60.2 nmol/L).

In a second study, Robyn Lucas, of the Australian National University in Canberra, and colleagues studied cases with a first demyelinating event at four Australian centers located between 27 and 43 degrees South latitude. They found that the incidence of such cases increased by 9.2 percent per degree of higher latitude.

"These descriptive case analyses show intriguing patterns that may be important for understanding the etiology of multiple sclerosis," Lucas and colleagues conclude. "Our findings suggest that the relative contributions of environmental and genetic factors to the clinical expression of multiple sclerosis vary with latitude."

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