A new study found that individuals, who possess particular genes that impel them to exhibit low vitamin D levels may be at a higher risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

While previous observational researches have presented a relationship between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing MS, the confirmation of whether this association is derived from a cause-and-effect mechanism remains elusive. Now, a group of researchers performed a Mendelian randomization (MR) study to see if decreased vitamin D indeed predisposes an individual to develop MS.

The scientists performed the study by first identifying four-letter genetic codes that are linked to a vitamin D marker in thousands of participants from the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study. They then utilized these genes to analyze if an association does exists between the genetically reduced vitamin D levels and vulnerability to MS among the participants in the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium study, which is comprised of 14,498 patients with MS and 24,091 healthy controls, all of whom have European descent.

The findings of the study, published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine, show that a genetic increase in the level of vitamin D biomarkers by about 1.5 times may reduce the risk of developing MS by up to 50 percent.

"The identification of vitamin D as a causal susceptibility factor for MS may have important public health implications," says Dr Brent Richards, study lead author from the McGill University, Canada. Lack of vitamin D is a rampant health issue amid its fairly safe and low-cost effectivity, he adds.

The etiology of MS remains enveloped in numerous scientific questions, says Dr Susan Kohlhaas from the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Hence, this large-scale research is a thrilling progress towards acquiring better knowledge regarding the complicated nature of the environmental and genetic parameters that enhance it.

In conclusion, the researchers confirmed that genetically lowering vitamin D biomarkers is strongly linked to increased risk of MS. However, further long-term randomized controlled studies are needed to determine if supplementation of vitamin D can prevent or hold back the development of MS. The authors also emphasized that although this study was able to identify a relationship between vitamin D levels and MS risk, it does not provide data about the role of vitamin D after the onset of MS, as well as the applicability of the study results to patients without European ancestry.

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