October 15th 2015

Recent research out of The Netherlands looked to determine if sun exposure in adolescence could delay the onset of MS.

Recent researchout of The Netherlands looked to determine if sun exposure in adolescence could delay the onset of MS.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an auto-immune disease that affects the myelin sheath of nerves in the central nervous system. Symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems and difficulty with balance and coordination.Researchhas shown that a relationship exists between Vitamin D and MS in that individuals with higher blood levels of vitamin D had reduced MS activity and slower progression of the disease during 5 years of follow-up. Since our bodies synthesize vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight, researchers from The Netherlands wanted to determine if sun exposure in adolescence could delay the onset of MS.

A total of 1,161 patients with MS participated in the study. Lifestyle questionnaires on the amount of sun exposure the patients acquired in their teens, as well as blood samples for genotyping were collected from all participants between 2009 and 2012. The results indicated that those individuals who admitted to daily sun exposure in their teens experienced the onset of symptoms 2 years later, on average, than those who did not. The Danish researchers found no relationship between study participant’s use of vitamin D supplementation in their teens and disease onset, suggesting that sunlight has its own positive effect on the immune system.

The results also showed that patients who had been overweight at age 20 developed MS almost two years earlier, on average, than those who had been at a normal weight at age 20. This finding may or may not be related to vitamin D, as a higher percentage of body fat can be associated with lower vitamin D levels.

Although these findings on vitamin D’s effect on MS do not indicate a cause and effect relationship, they do seem to indicate that adolescence is a critical time for disease development. Further research is needed to determine exactly out how sun exposure, vitamin D, and weight affect the disease.

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