No Link Between Vitamin D Levels in Newborns and Multiple Sclerosis

First Posted: Aug 12, 2014 06:18 AM EDT

A latest study debunked the association between vitamin D levels in newborns and the risk of developing multiple sclerosis in adulthood.

This study was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet. Over the recent years, it was widely accepted that low levels of vitamin D in newborn babies increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) in adulthood. This is based on the studies that highlighted infants born in spring have a high risk of developing the disease as compared to those born during autumn. It was believed that low levels of sun exposure during pregnancy doubles the risk of MS in children born after winter.

This is the first time that this hypothesis has been tested; till date it was assessed through indirect observations. 

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most disabling neurological diseases that affect 250,000-350,000 people in the U.S. It is diagnosed in people aged between 20 and 40 years. It is estimated that nearly 2.5 million people worldwide have MS. It is not an inherited disorder, but researchers assume that there is a genetic predisposition to the development of the disease.

"There are several reasons why the link between vitamin D at birth and later risk of MS has not been directly assessed previously," explains Peter Ueda.

The levels of vitamin D at birth of MS sufferers were measured and compared with a control group. It included 459 participants with MS and 663 healthy control subjects. These participants were part of the EIMS project led by the Institute. Each participant with MS gave blood sample and was made to answer a questionnaire.

Using PKU register that contains blood samples from newborn Swedish babies from 1975 onwards, the researchers determined the levels of vitamin D from time of birth of MS patients and their controls. They developed a new technique to measure vitamin D levels in dried blood samples.

"We could not see any association between levels of vitamin D at birth and risk of MS in adulthood," said Peter Ueda. "However a weaker link cannot be ruled out, nor can the link be ruled out for people with certain genes. However, our results do not support the hypothesis of such a possibility for reducing MS risk."

The results have been published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

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