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Researcher: D-vitamin deficiency during pregnancy raises baby's MS risk

Children born to mothers who were vitamin-D deficient during pregnancy were twice as likely to suffer from the nervous system disease multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a fresh doctoral dissertation to be presented at the University of Turku later this week.

Raskaana oleva nainen.
Exposure to sunlight is the most important source of vitamin-D in humans. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

A new dissertation claims that expecting mothers who do not get enough vitamin D could double the likelihood that their children will get the nerve disease MS, according to a new dissertation by researcher Julia Åivo, a doctoral student and Licentiate in Medicine at the University of Turku.

Several previous studies have raised suspicions that there's a connection between MS and D-vitamin deficiency, but so far none of them have been able to exactly pinpoint the links.

Åivo also looked at the effect increases in vitamin-D intake has on patients who already suffer from MS. She says that MS study subjects received an extra 500 micrograms of D vitamins per week and that the results could be seen in MRI images.

"Tissue changes caused by inflammation were dramatically reduced [in those who received the supplement], compared to the control group who got a placebo," she says.

850,000 blood tests examined

In her study, Åivo examined the results of blood tests of some 850 thousand pregnant women taken since 1983.

She says that getting enough vitamin-D is particularly important for all people living in sun-challenged countries like Finland, where the sun does not shine much for half the year.

Exposure to sunlight, she says, is the most important source of vitamin-D in humans.

Åivo recommends that women should take extra D-vitamins when pregnant.

"The right dose is between 50 to 100 micrograms per day," she said.

Åivo's doctoral dissertation Vitamin D in the Prevention and Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis  will be reviewed at the University of Turku on Friday.

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