What is the role of vitamin D in the etiology of multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Updated: Oct 08, 2019
  • Author: Christopher Luzzio, MD; Chief Editor: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA  more...
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Answer

Low levels of vitamin D have been proposed as one environmental factor contributing to the development of MS. Vitamin D has a role in regulating immune response, by decreasing production of proinflammatory cytokines and increasing production of anti-inflammatory cytokines; also, high circulating levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with a reduced risk of MS. [39]

Thus, lower vitamin D levels due to lower sunlight exposure at higher latitudes may be one reason for the geographic variations in MS incidence, and the protective effect of traditional diets high in vitamin D could help explain why certain areas (eg, Norway) have a lower incidence of MS despite having limited sunlight. [40] This hypothesis would also provide an explanation for the correlation between childhood sun exposure and MS in monozygotic twins discordant for MS. [41]


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