February 10, 2009
Vitamin D For Babies Boosts Growth, Cuts MS

Summer sunshine is suspected to cause taller children.

Those born in the late summer and early autumn are around half a centimetre taller and have wider bones than their peers born in winter and spring, an 18 year project found.

Expectant mothers lucky enough to be blooming in the hot months should get enough sun to boost their vitamin D levels just by walking around outside or even sunbathing.

But winter parents should consider taking vitamin supplements, researchers at Bristol University recommended.

At the same time, some carry a genetic variant that might make them more susceptible to multiple sclerosis when they do not get enough vitamin D before and after birth.

The largest genetic effect by far comes from the region on chromosome six containing the gene variant known as DRB1*1501 and from adjacent DNA sequences. Whilst one in 1,000 people in the UK are likely to develop MS, this number rises to around one in 300 amongst those carrying a single copy of the variant and one in 100 of those carrying two copies.

Now, in a study funded by the UK's MS Society, the MS Society of Canada, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of British Columbia have established a direct relationship between DRB1*1501 and vitamin D.

The researchers found that proteins activated by vitamin D in the body bind to a particular DNA sequence lying next to the DRB1*1501 variant, in effect switching the gene on.

"In people with the DRB1 variant associated with MS, it seems that vitamin D may play a critical role," says co-author Dr Julian Knight. "If too little of the vitamin is available, the gene may not function properly."

"We have known for a long time that genes and environment determine MS risk," says Professor George Ebers, University of Oxford. "Here we show that the main environmental risk candidate vitamin D and the main gene region are directly linked and interact."

So mom and baby should get lots of vitamin D to grow big and strong and avoid MS.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 February 10 12:18 AM  Nutrition Immune Disorders

Mthson said at February 10, 2009 1:07 AM:

I wonder if these effects are significant in regions that are more sunny in the winter.

Ned said at February 10, 2009 7:03 AM:

This might explain the striking variation in the geographic incidence of MS, which is fairly common in northern, temperate climates and rare in the tropics. Some of this is no doubt genetic, but the rest might be related to sunlight exposure and vitamin D:

Some researchers suggest that multiple sclerosis is common in temperate regions due to the seasonal fluctuations in daylight affecting body chemistry. Research has shown that both disease onset and relapses are more common in the springtime and least common in the winter [Jin et al, 2000]. Levels of vitamin D3, melatonin and other biochemicals have all been shown to vary with the seasons and some of these have been shown to be immunologically or neurologically active [Embry et al, 2000, Timonen TT, 1999; Hayes, 2000, Nelson et al, 2001, Prendergast et al 2001].

If these biochemicals are related to the development of MS, do they also affect its course after onset? If they do, should therapies involving them concentrate on increasing their absolute levels in the body throughout the year or should we attempt to load our levels only at the times of the year when they are at their lowest? Studies in other diseases suggest that this may be a fruitful therapeutic line [Yamashita H, 2001; Guillemant J, 2001; Duhamel JF, 2000; Pawlikowski M et al, 2002 and many others].

Mike Barnes said at February 10, 2009 8:53 AM:

There is even more data on vitamin D3 and its role in cancer prevention than there is in multiple sclerosis. The Canadian Cancer Society now recommend that everyone takes vitamin D3 supplements to prevent cancer. here is a website that has all the data: www.vitaminD3world.com

Sam said at February 10, 2009 12:34 PM:

I don't have the expertise to evaluate this, but have you seen this study that says Vitamin D supplements may actually exacerbate the problem?

I just started taking 2000 IU a few days ago, and after seeing this study I'm a bit unsure what to do... I guess the study's author is a bit controversial, but again, I don't know enough to make a reasoned analysis of that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Marshall

Mike Banres said at February 14, 2009 1:32 PM:

If you do a search on pub med you will find 1000's of studies on vitamin D and its benefits. This is the first negative (and preclinical as well) to be suggested. I think the balance still lies heavily in favor. There was another study in January in UK showing prostate cancer patients with low levels have almost ten times the risk of death.

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