Vitamin D deficiency can lead to multiple sclerosis, says study

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Manage vitamin D deficiency by soaking up the sunshine, and keep diseases like multiple sclerosis at bay. Find out what a new study has to say.

Getting a daily dose of sun exposure is highly recommended by most health experts for general well-being. The UV rays boost Vitamin D in the human body. Now if a new study is to be believed, this may even protect children and young adults against the auto-immune disease multiple sclerosis.

What is multiple sclerosis?

It is a neurological disorder that affects your central nervous system. In this disorder, the immune system is attacked and the protective layer around your nerve fibre is damaged. Due to this, your brain is unable to send proper signals to your body.

What is the link between sunlight and multiple sclerosis?

This new study is published in the online issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. It follows past research on the link between increased ultraviolet exposure in childhood and lower odds of adult multiple sclerosis.

As many as 332 participants aged between 3 to 22, and who had multiple sclerosis for an average of seven months, were included in the study. Their locations and amount of sun exposure were matched by age and sex to 534 participants without the condition.

According to the research, 19 percent of the respondents mentioned that they spent less than 30 minutes daily outdoors during the previous summer, compared to 6 per cent of those who did not have multiple sclerosis. Also, participants who spent an average of 30 minutes to one hour outdoors daily had a 52 percent lower chance of the condition, compared to those who spent an average of fewer than 30 minutes outdoors daily.

“Sun exposure is known to boost vitamin D levels,” said co-senior author Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

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Let your child get adequate sunlight. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“It also stimulates immune cells in the skin that have a protective role in diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D may also change the biological function of the immune cells and, as such, play a role in protecting against autoimmune diseases,” added Waubant.

Multiple sclerosis usually strikes adults between the ages of 20 to 50, some 3 to 5 per cent of the approximately one million patients in the United States with the condition begin experiencing symptoms in childhood.

Does sunscreen reduce sunlight effect?

Waubant says the use of sunscreen does not appear to reduce the therapeutic effects of sunlight in warding off multiple sclerosis.

The researchers are yet to ascertain through clinical trials if “increasing sun exposure or vitamin D supplementation can prevent the development of MS or alter disease course post-diagnosis”.

Also Read: 5 reasons why your body just cannot do without vitamin D

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Use a sunscreen when you go to soak up the sun! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What can you do to manage vitamin D deficiency?

The experts suggest spending regular time in the sun of at least 30 minutes daily especially during summer. Also, use sun protection as needed.

Apart from getting adequate sunlight, which is the simplest and most natural way to get Vitamin D, here’s how to manage vitamin D deficiency:

  • Eat a nutritious diet: Vitamin D is naturally found in a number of food items such as fish, yoghurt, milk, mushrooms and eggs.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Effective metabolization (process for creating energy in our body) of vitamin D requires us to refrain from activities such as smoking and drinking. Moreover, exercising regularly can also increase vitamin D production in our body.
  • Consider supplements: There are various vitamin D supplements available, which can give a boost to your health. However, do consult with a doctor before taking any such supplements.

Remember that limited sun exposure and/or low levels of vitamin D have also been associated with other conditions. These include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, as well as schizophrenia and other auto-immune diseases like Type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and lupus.

(With Inputs from ANI)

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