Babies conceived on Valentine’s Day are the least likely to suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, a leading charity has revealed.
- Shift.ms says exposure to sunshine during pregnancy reduces MS risks
- Summer pregnancies absorb more vitamin D for healthier immune system
- MS is the most common neurological condition affecting young adults in UK
- Neurologists have urged pregnant women to take vitamin D supplements
WHAT IS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
Multiple Sclerosis usually strikes people in their 20s and 30s and affects 2.5million people around the world, including 85,000 Britons.
It can cause blindness and paralysis, but current drugs are not suitable for all and there is no cure.
Multiple sclerosis occurs when ‘friendly fire’ from the body’s immune system, destroys myelin, the fatty protective sheath around nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting the transmission of signals vital to everything from seeing and walking to thinking and bladder control.
The research shows white blood cells called T cells to be pivotal to the process.
It is thought that overactive T cells accumulate in the brain, where, with the help of other immune cells they produce a chemical ‘soup’ that destroys the myelin and short-circuits the signalling process.
Shift.ms says that women whose pregnancies span the summer months absorb greater vitamin D from a stronger sun – which research shows has a positive impact on immune system development.
It means, the charity says, November-born babies are far less likely to have the chronic condition compared to those born in May.
Affecting nearly 100,000 people in the UK, MS is the most common disabling neurological condition for young adults today and Shift.ms is campaigning for greater awareness of the crippling nerve condition.
Professor Gavin Giovannoni, Chair of Neurology at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: ‘This supports my current recommendation that all woman should be taking physiological doses of vitamin D supplements during pregnancy.
‘In fact we all should be supplementing our dietary intake all the time. I currently recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day for adults and 10,000 IU during pregnancy, which is based on the recommendations of the Vitamin D Council.’
George Pepper, founder of Shift.ms and diagnosed with MS nine years ago, said: ‘Our charity is aimed at young people and the forum is full of comments about how starting a family is a worry. MS is a very uncertain condition to live with, no two cases are the same and it can impact lives on completely different scales.
‘We hope these findings will help reduce the risk for future generations and gives an excuse to have an enjoyable Valentine’s Day.
Researchers are now calling for pregnant women to be given vitamin D supplements to cut cases of the disease – an issue especially relevant to British women who absorb less sunlight than those nearer the equator.
It is already known that MS cases are higher in countries like Britain which are further away from the equator with relatively low sunlight levels.
Diabetes, asthma and life-threatening heart disease in babies are also linked to low levels of vitamin D in early life.
Dr Sreeram Ramagopalan, who conducted the biggest study of its kind on the relationship of vitamin D and MS in 2011, told the Daily Mail at the time: ‘Around 90 per cent of women are vitamin D deficient during the winter months which means pregnant women are especially at risk.’
Dr Ramagopalan said the notion that vitamin D deficiency contributed to MS was first aired in the 1960s.
‘It was laughed at’ he said. ‘No one could believe a simple vitamin would have this sort of impact. It is only by consistent replication of studies showing a link that we can say it is a genuine one.
‘We believe the Government should get behind this and tell midwives and pregnant women that taking supplements can have health benefits for the baby’ he said.