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.
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.
Vitamin D appears to play an important role in the immune system. In a recent post about rheumatoid arthritis risk factors I mentioned that vitamin D appears to cut the risk of getting that terrible auto-immune disorder. Well, now comes a report from vitamin D researcher Cedric Garland of USCD about how type I auto-immune diabetes occurs at the highest rates where people get less sunshine and therefore get less vitamin D synthesized in their skin.
Sun exposure and vitamin D levels may play a strong role in risk of type 1 diabetes in children, according to new findings by researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. This association comes on the heels of similar research findings by this same group regarding vitamin D levels and several major cancers.
In this new study, the researchers found that populations living at or near the equator, where there is abundant sunshine (and ultraviolet B irradiance) have low incidence rates of type 1 diabetes. Conversely, populations at higher latitudes, where available sunlight is scarcer, have higher incidence rates. These findings add new support to the concept of a role of vitamin D in reducing risk of this disease.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure triggers photosynthesis of vitamin D3 in the skin. This form of vitamin D also is available through diet and supplements.
"This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide," said Cedric F. Garland, Dr. P.H., professor of Family and Preventive Medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine, and member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
The study is published June 5 in the online version of the scientific journal Diabetologia.
Do I even need to mention that vitamin D seems to also cut the risk of the killer auto-immune disorder Multiple Sclerosis? Want to avoid auto-immune disorders, cut your risk of cancer, and probably reduce your incidence of infectious diseases? Vitamin D delivers many benefits.
My Australian and Kiwi readers (and Chileans and Argentineans) are coming up on their shortest day of the year and they ought to be thinking about vitamin D supplementation. Northern hemisphere denizens who stay indoors the vast bulk of the time ought to consider vitamin D supplementation during the summer as well.