Link between low Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
People with autoimmune diseases typically have lower vitamin D levels than a healthy population. The best evidence that low vitamin D levels increase the risk of an autoimmune disease is in the case of MS.
Research by Australian and American scientists shows why Vitamin D can be protective of MS. Multiple sclerosis is more common in those countries with low levels of sunlight meaning Vitamin D exposure is low. This is referred to as a latitude dependent disease because MS is more commonly found in those countries further from the equator.
The research team discovered that three known MS-risk genes which control vitamin D activation are turned on in specific immune cells called myeloid cells. This finding is important because it shows, for the first time, a potential genetic mechanism for how vitamin D might be influencing the immune system.
Furthermore, this knowledge may help to unravel the immune pathways that lead to autoimmune disease and offer the potential for more targeted treatments to be developed for it.