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Vitamin D supplement during pregnancy could prevent MS

Month of birth affects risk of multiple sclerosis, finds study

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Doctors should recommend that pregnant women take Vitamin D supplements as a way of lessening the risk of their child developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study published online today in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

A study by UK researchers found that the risk of MS was highest for babies born in April and lowest in October, following analysis of available evidence from several populations at latitudes greater than 52 degrees from the equator.

They compared previously published data on 151,978 people who had MS with expected birth rates for the disease in a bid to find out if there was any link between country of birth and risk of developing MS.

At latitudes greater than 52 degrees from the equator, insufficient ultraviolet light of the correct wavelength reaches the skin between October and March to enable the body to manufacture enough vitamin D during the winter months, they said.

Analysis showed babies born in April were 5% more likely to be diagnosed with MS at some point in their life than babies born in other months. Similarly, the risk of MS was 5% to 7% lower among those born between October and November.

The authors carried out a further “conservative analysis” leaving out some studies that had wholly or partially overlapping data that might have skewed the results.

This reduced the number of people with MS to 78,488 and showed similar seasonal trends when looking at risk of developing MS.

There was still a significant increase in risk of MS among those born in April and May and a significantly lower risk among those born in October and November.

The researchers said their findings led them to conclude that there was a strong case for vitamin D supplementation of pregnant women in countries where ultraviolet light levels were low between October and March.

Dr Ram Ramagopalan, of Queen Mary University of London, Blizard Institute and colleagues said: “Through combining existing datasets for month of birth and subsequent MS risk, this study provides the most robust evidence to date that the month of birth effect is a genuine one.

“This finding, which supports concepts hypothesised some years previously, surely adds weight to the argument for early intervention studies to prevent MS through vitamin D supplementation.”

DOI:10.1136/jnnp-2012-303934

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