Health professionals have been stressing the importance of bathing in sunlight now and then. Now, a new study showed that having a regular fix of the so-called sunshine vitamin can help prevent the development of Multiple Sclerosis in women.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that women with low levels of vitamin D were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop MS in the long run.

Lower levels of vitamin D in the blood could lead to MS

For the study, the researchers identified more than 1,000 women diagnosed with MS from 1983 to 2009.

These women were included in the Finnish Maternity Cohort and have stored blood samples. The researchers used this blood samples to measure the levels of vitamin D in their blood before they were clinically diagnosed.

The researchers also analyzed blood samples from over 2,000 women without MS to serve as the control. They found that women diagnosed with MS have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who do not have MS. Women with Vitamin D Deficiency and vitamin D insufficiency was 43 percent and 27 percent, respectively, more likely to develop MS about nine years later.

Women in northern countries more likely to have low levels of vitamin D

It has been previously known that northern countries, away from the equator, have a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis. The researchers noted that the reason behind the high incidence of MS in these countries could be due to lack of sun exposure. The most common way for the body to acquire vitamin D is basking in the sunlight.

Ultraviolet rays from the sun could trigger a chemical reaction when it reaches the skin, leading to the endogenous production of vitamin D. Aside from the sunlight, vitamin D can also be found in very few foods. These foods may include red meats, eggs, and oily fish. Vitamin D is also easily available as a dietary supplement.

Vitamin D levels in the body are measured in nanomoles per liter of blood (nmol/L).

A patient is considered to have vitamin D deficiency when their levels are lower than 30 nmol/L, while those with levels between 30 and 50 nmol/L are considered to have vitamin D insufficiency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about eight percent of Americans are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, while about one-quarter were at risk of vitamin D insufficiency.

Aside from the higher risk of MS in women, low levels of vitamin D were associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in adults, severe asthma in children and cancer.

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