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Exposure to sun, vitamin D linked to MS risk

[ 2011-02-09 12:09]     字号 [] [] []  
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People who have spent more time in the sun and those with higher vitamin D levels may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis, according to an Australian study.

Previous studies have shown that people living close to the equator are less likely to get multiple sclerosis (MS) than those at higher latitudes, a difference that may be explained by more sun exposure and higher vitamin D levels.

According to a report in Neurology, Robyn Lucas of The Australian National University and colleagues studied 216 adults who has just started having the first symptoms of MS between 2003 and 2006.

They also found a comparison group of nearly 400 people from the same regions of Australia, who matched the subjects in age and gender, but had no signs or symptoms of MS.

Participants in both groups were asked how much time they had spent in the sun and where they had lived at different points in their lives, with skin damage from the sun and the level of vitamin D in their blood also checked.

On average, people with the first signs of MS had been exposed to a smaller "UV dose" - based on how much time they had spent in the sun and how close to the equator they had lived - over the course of their lives.

People with early MS were also less than half as likely to have high levels of skin damage caused by sun exposure, with vitamin D levels 5 to 10 percent lower than those without MS.

The latest study does not prove that being exposed to very little sunlight or having low vitamin D levels causes MS, and while the authors tried to show that both sun exposure and vitamin D levels influence risk of MS on their own, some experts were doubtful that this was possible.

"They may have independent roles, but the reality is it's extremely difficult to sort them out," said Alberto Ascherio, who studies the link between vitamin D and MS at the Harvard School of Public Health and was not involved in the current study.

He noted that the authors didn't know the participants' blood levels of vitamin D over the course of their lives, and that it's possible that measuring somebody's sun exposure over the years is really just another way of measuring how much vitamin D they had at those times.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Exposure to sun, vitamin D linked to MS risk

About the broadcaster:

Exposure to sun, vitamin D linked to MS risk

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.