Canadians are getting very worried about the high levels of multiple sclerosis (MS) in their country. With an estimated 55,000 to 75,000 people affected by the disease, Canada has one of the highest MS rates in the world. More than 2.5 million people worldwide are thought to suffer from the condition.
Sheryl Ubelacker, reporter for The Canadian Press, writes on February 5th of this year about a study by a team of Canadian and British researchers that suggests that too little of the "sunlight vitamin" in a mother during pregnancy and a child's early years may boost the risk of that child developing MS later in life. This is just one more piece of evidence of how critically important that Vitamin D is for human health.
The researchers in Ubelacker's story found that vitamin D activates proteins that lock onto a segment of DNA next to a certain gene (called DRB1-1501) which has been implicated in the development of MS. These proteins regulate what the gene does, in effect switching it on. If there is a lack of vitamin D in the body, the gene may not function properly.
"We have known for a long time that genes and environment determine MS risk," said Dr. George Ebers, a neurologist at Oxford University in England. "Here we show that the main environmental risk candidate - vitamin D - and the main gene region are directly linked and interact."
MS, a degenerative neurological condition that causes the destruction of the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, is most common in people living in northern regions with low annual average sunlight levels.