The Australian love affair with the great outdoors may have contributed to lower rates of multiple sclerosis, according to new research.
People who spend more time in the sun, and those with higher vitamin D levels, may be less likely to develop MS, new research from The Australian National University has found.
Associate Professor Robyn Lucas said that many people who experience preliminary symptoms of the sort that occur in MS – known as a ‘first event’ – go on to develop the disease.
The Ausimmune Study, coordinated by Lucas from the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment and involving researchers from across Australia, found that the risk of having a first event was lower in people with higher sun exposure – over the whole of their lives as well as in the months preceding the event, compared with unaffected people of the same age and sex and living in the same region of Australia.
“People with the highest levels of vitamin D were also less likely to have a diagnosed first event than people with the lowest levels,” she said.
The study, published in the recent issue of Neurology, is the first to look at sun exposure and vitamin D status in people who had experienced a first event with the type of symptoms found in MS.
“Previous studies have looked at people who already have MS,” said Lucas. “This has made it difficult to know whether having the disease led them to change their habits in the sun or their diet.
That is, it has not been possible to work out if low sun exposure or vitamin D cause the disease or were caused by having the disease.”
Lucas said that the study showed, for the first time in a human population, that the effects of sun exposure and vitamin D act independently of each other, with each having a beneficial effect in decreasing the risk of a first event.
“Further research should evaluate both sun exposure and vitamin D for the prevention of MS,” she said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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