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High Vitamin D Offers Protection Against MS in Expectant Mothers

Multiple studies conclude the importance of high vitamin D levels, especially in pregnant women.

Sunlight-- by Joann Jovinelly

The Gist

Getting about fifteen minutes of sunlight a day is especially important in naturally maintaining the body’s levels of vitamin D, especially if you're pregnant.

According to a study published this month in the medical journal Neurology, pregnant women with higher levels of vitamin D may have a lower risk of developing autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS). 

Researchers found that women with high levels of vitamin D in their blood had a 61 percent lower risk of developing MS. Unfortunately, that protection did not transfer to the mother’s unborn child.

The Expert Take

“In our study, pregnant women and women in general had a lower risk for MS with higher levels of the vitamin, as expected,” explained study author Jonatan Salzer, M.D., a physician with Umeå University in Sweden.    

“Since we found no protective effect on the baby for women with higher levels of vitamin D in early pregnancy, our study suggests the protective effect may start later in pregnancy and beyond,” said Salzer.

“Another interesting finding in our study [is] that the vitamin D levels became gradually lower in time from 1975 and onward," Salzer continued. "It is possible that this decline in vitamin D status is linked to the increasing numbers of MS cases seen worldwide." 

Source and Method

For the study, Salzer and his colleagues reviewed information from 291,500 blood samples from 164,000 people collected since 1975 in the northern half of Sweden. Of those participants, 192 people developed MS in an average of nine years, and 37 of the participants had children who developed MS later in life.

In all, only seven of the 192 who later developed MS had high vitamin D levels, or 4 percent, compared to 30 of 384 controls without the disease, or 8 percent.  

The Takeaway

Much research has been dedicated of late to studying the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the body. And even though recently updated U.S. guidelines have scaled back the recommended daily allowances of vitamin D levels necessary to maintain good health, many physicians disagree with those findings.  

In fact, mounting evidence suggests that increasing vitamin D levels may be crucial to helping ward off a whole host of diseases from kidney-related disease in type 2 diabetics to cardiovascular disorders and others.   

Other Research

Another study published this month in the British Medical Journal examined and compared MS disease data in countries located nearer and farther from the equator, with the difference being that people living in countries closer to the equator would get natural sunlight for longer periods during the year.  

It noted “a significant increase in [MS] risk in babies born in April and May and a significantly lower risk among those born in October and November." These results suggest that women who gave birth in autumn after enjoying sunlight during the summer months while pregnant actually lowered their risk of having a baby who would later develop the disease. 

Study authors concluded that “vitamin D supplementation is necessary in pregnant women who live in countries where ultraviolet light levels are low between October and March”—conditions that are similar to living in the northern U.S. states during the winter. 

Moreover, this 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine noted several recent epidemiological studies that concluded “relationships between low vitamin D levels and multiple disease states, including increased deaths from heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as MS.”

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Tags: Awareness , Latest Studies & Research

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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.