Photo: Blue sky with sunshine and a few clouds

New research - vitamin D in pregnancy

Low vitamin D levels in newborns could increase their future risk of MS, according to new research.

Scientists found that children born with very low levels of vitamin D were more likely to develop MS in later life.

However, the study does not prove that increasing levels of vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing the condition.

The sunshine vitamin

You may hear vitamin D referred to as the sunshine vitamin. This is because it’s produced in our skin in response to sunlight.

People who live further away from the equator get less sunlight. This means they often have lower levels of vitamin D. In countries like the UK vitamin D levels also vary from season to season, dropping to their lowest after the darker winter months.

The month you were born in and MS

This study adds to previous research suggesting a link between the month you were born in and the risk of developing MS.

In a large study published earlier this year, researchers found that people born in November were less likely to develop MS than those born in April. This could be due to a variety of factors, including levels of vitamin D during pregnancy.

What does this mean?

There are many factors that could influence how likely a person is to develop MS, including genes, your environment and some lifestyle factors. This research suggests that some environmental risk factors for MS could act before birth.

We need more research to better understand how vitamin D levels during pregnancy could contribute to a person's risk of developing MS.

Should I take vitamin D supplements?

In July 2016 the Government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended that everyone in the UK should take vitamin D supplements (400IU per day) for good bone health. This includes women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Making sure we’re not deficient in vitamin D is important for all of us. But, so far there is no evidence to suggest a benefit to taking very high doses of vitamin D.

If you are worried about your vitamin D levels you should speak to your health care professional.

> Read the original research paper on the Neurology website

Understanding the causes of MS

Researchers are working hard to better understand the causes of MS. This will help them to find ways to reduce the risk of people getting MS in the future.