medwireNews: Babies born with low levels of vitamin D may be at increased risk for multiple sclerosis (MS) in later life, suggests research.
“[O]ur results may provide important information to the ongoing debate about vitamin D for pregnant women,” lead researcher Nete Munk Nielsen (Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark) said in a press statement.
Nielsen and colleagues used the Danish Newborn Screening Biobank of dried blood spot samples to measure the vitamin D levels of 521 people who went on to develop MS compared with those of 972 people of the same gender and birth date who did not.
Patients with MS had an average serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) level as neonates of 33.0 nmol/L versus 35.9 nmol/L for those without MS. When stratified into quintiles, the risk for MS was reduced by a significant 47% for those in the highest (≥48.90 nmol/L) versus the lowest (<20.74 nmol/L) quintiles, and by 41% after taking into account parental ethnicity, gestational age, and birthweight.
The researchers note in Neurology that more than 40% of children overall had deficient 25(OH)D levels, at below 30 nmol/L, and with each 25 nmol/L increase in levels, the adjusted risk for MS was 26% lower. But there was no significant difference in risk between those with insufficient (30–<50 nmol/L) and sufficient (≥50 nmol/L) levels.
They believe the findings have “importance for public health,” but caution that the young age of the majority of the participants, at 30 years or younger, limit generalization of the findings to individuals with disease onset at older ages.
Ruth Ann Marrie (University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada) and Martin Daumer (Sylvia Lawry Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, Munich, Germany) agree in a related editorial that “these findings suggest opportunities for prevention,” given the frequently low serum 25(OH)D levels in people from temperate climates.
But they add that “it is unclear, as the authors note, whether the present findings reflect a protective effect of higher vitamin D exposure in utero, or related behaviors that lead to higher vitamin D exposure later in life.”
Nielsen and team conclude that “[t]his uncertainty notwithstanding, the high global prevalence of hypovitaminosis D among pregnant women and the fact that increasing maternal vitamin D levels is likely to reduce the mother’s risk of MS as well as her offspring’s provides a rationale for universal vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy.”
By Lucy Piper
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