Sunshine may protect children and young adults from multiple sclerosis (MS) a new study has found. Researchers believe the vitamin D made in the body after exposure to sunlight is the key, and it follows other studies which have found an association between sunlight exposure as a child and lower MS risk as an adult.
For the research, 332 with MS people were quizzed about their sun exposure and compared to an age and sex-matched control group of 534 people without MS. After researchers had adjusted for known MS risks, such as smoking and being female, they discovered participants that spent an average of 30 minutes to one hour outdoors daily in the summer and a 52% lower risk of MS, compared with those who were outdoors for less than 30 minutes on average.
"Sun exposure is known to boost vitamin D levels," said co-senior author Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences.
"It also stimulates immune cells in the skin that have a protective role in diseases such as MS. Vitamin D may also change the biological function of the immune cells and, as such, play a role in protecting against autoimmune diseases," added Waubant.
Clinical trials are needed to find out if either supplementing vitamin D or increasing sun exposure can prevent MS developing or alter the condition’s course after diagnosis. Researchers also said that it may be worthwhile advising first-degree relatives of people with MS to spend at least 30 minutes a day in the sun as it may be an intervention that may reduce MS incidence.
Source: MS-UK 20 December 2022