MONDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women with higher levels of vitamin D circulating in their blood were significantly less likely to develop multiple sclerosis in the years after giving birth, a new Swedish study suggests.
Researchers also found that vitamin D blood levels had decreased gradually since 1975 in those tested, possibly providing clues as to why MS has become more common in industrialized parts of the world.
"It seems that vitamin D might help twist the immune system towards a more non-inflammatory state, and this has been suggested as one of the [presumed] mechanisms by which vitamin D might influence MS risk," said study author Dr. Jonatan Salzer, a doctoral student in pharmacology and clinical neuroscience at Umea University. "The finding does, however, need confirmation in a different [group] before it's considered a 'true' finding, as is generally the case with these kinds of research results."
The study is published in the Nov. 20 online issue of the journal Neurology.
Thought to be an autoimmune disorder, MS affects about 400,000 people in the United States, according to the National MS Society. The disease attacks the fatty sheath protecting nerves in the central nervous system, causing disabling symptoms such as blurred vision, loss of balance, bladder and bowel difficulties, slurred speech, numbness and extreme fatigue.
Salzer and his team reviewed results from 291,500 blood samples collected from 164,000 people in the northern part of Sweden since 1975, including 124,000 samples from pregnant women. Women who had high blood levels of vitamin D were 61 percent less likely to develop MS compared to those with low levels.
However, no link was found between the mother's vitamin D levels and whether her child would later develop MS. These findings contradict a study published last week in the Journal of Neurology, Neu
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