No link with vitamin D levels at birth and adult-onset MS

Has another MS hypothesis bitten the dust? #MSBlog #MSResearch

“This study below is one we wanted to do a few years ago using Guthrie cards (blood spots taken at birth); the study shows that vD levels at birth are not a risk factor for developing adult-onset MS. This is a real blow for the theory that intrauterine vD deficiency was affecting the maturation of the fetal immune system and planting the seeds for the development of autoimmune disease later in life. It also questions the month-of-birth effect data being linked to vD and gives credence to the recent publication questioning whether or not MS is linked to month of birth, or the effect is simply an artifact of the way the data is analysed. It also blows a hole in the MS prevention strategy of making sure all pregnant women are vD replete during pregnancy.”

‘The great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.’ Thomas Henry Huxley.

“May be we need some more science, before we throw away the beautiful hypothesis that intrauterine vD deficiency increases one’s lifetime risk of developing autoimmune disease. Time for some reading, thinking and quite contemplation.”

Ueda et al. Neonatal vitamin D status and risk of multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 2014 Jul. doi: 10.1002/ana.24210

Objective: Low vitamin D status at birth may be associated with risk of adult onset MS, but this link has not been studied directly. We assessed the relation between neonatal vitamin D concentrations, measured in stored blood samples, and risk of multiple sclerosis.

Methods: This was a population-based case-control study in Sweden including 459 incident cases of multiple sclerosis and 663 controls, randomly drawn from a national population registry and frequency matched on sex, age and residential area.

Results: There was no association between neonatal 25-hydroxyvitamin D quintile and risk of multiple sclerosis (crude odds ratio 1.0, 95% confidence interval 0.68 to 1.44, for the highest quintile compared to the lowest). Adjusting for a number of potential confounding factors in early life (month of birth, latitude of birth, breastfeeding) and in adult life (25-hydroxyvitamin D, sun exposure, vitamin D intake from dairy products, fat fish consumption, smoking, body mass index at 20 years of age) as well as ancestry, multiple sclerosis heredity, and socioeconomic group, did not considerably affect the result.

Interpretation: At a broad population level, 25-hydroxyvitamin D at birth was not associated with risk of multiple sclerosis

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.


  • The more I read these research articles, the more I realise that the MS research world hasn't got a clue about this disease. And before Prof M wades in with a defence, just tell me what causes the disease, just confirm to me whether MS is a primarily neurodegenerative or inflammatory. So vit D as a causal factor is dead. Month of birth isn't important – are you there Dr Ram or Prof Ebers? Will charcot project kill the Vit D hypotesis? Highly likely. But at least we can cure EAE!

  • Well, not surprised at all by that one. Which leaves us with the theory that VitD deficiency is a result of MS (or any other inflammatory process – check the data for cancer patients and low VitD levels). I forsee that smoking will go the same route as VitD.

    What makes sense on the other hand is UVB and prevention/progression and cholesterol and neurodegeneration (check the Alzheimer's data).

    So what does this all say about autoimmunity and MS – I am starting to doubt that one as well?

  • Why has there been a focusing on vitamin d rather than UV light? Could vit d levels not just be a surrogate marker for UV exposure, rendering any direct study of vitamin d itself (and any study of vitamin d supplementation) a complete waste of time? Is there any scientific reason why vitamin d has hogged the spotlight rather than UV light? [Having done a brief search for phototherapy in psoriasis, I can see no mention of vitamin d…. MS lesions are obviously slightly more inaccessible that skin ones though.]

  • Dr Dre is right when he once said that MS is something that's in your chromosomes, much like cancer and such.

    You can't escape MS. It's made of you and is embedded within you. It's meant to be, I guess.

  • It says in the paper. "Samples were stored at room temperature between 1975 and August 1981, and thereafter in cold storage (4 C). It is likely that the samples degraded somewhat during the time in storage." I assume they think the all degraded at the same rate as the 25(OH)D test were done after many years of storage, and if they didn't this would be problematic. I will wait to see this repeated elsewhere before rejecting the hypothesis

  • All this study is saying is that Vitamin D status in newborns does not correlate with ms development. I think it is good to know, but this is just a snapshot in time. If you grow up with a low vitamin D level as your immune system is developing is the more important question.

  • So today's news is ur sex life is destroyed hy this disease and vit D unlikly to be a cause of MS. What happened to the suggestion of a good jews week?

    • From the paper: "The distribution of neonatal 25(OH)D was moderately skewed in the sample; mean for the whole study population was 29.7 (17.3) nmol/l (median 25.6, interquartile range 17.0–38.4nmol/l). As predicted, concentrations of neonatal 25(OH)D varied significantly by month of birth (Fig 2). Participants with no Scandinavian parent had sig-nificantly lower neonatal 25(OH)D compared to partici-pants with a Scandinavian parent (mean 25.5, 95% confidence interval 22.3–28.6 vs 30.1, 29.1–31.2nmol/ l, p 5 0.007)." Mean in summer was about 47nmol/L, winter 22nmol/L from the graph. I think the quintile range for each band was 10nmol/L.

  • I agree with anon 2:11. Also low vit D levels is likely to be only one of he factors leading to MS, and it's a combination of many. Not all people with low vit D levels get MS, not all smokers get MS. I think the only constant is that you won't get MS if you are EBV negative (but not all EBV positives get MS)

  • I'm on vit d as prescribed by my Neurolist . If I'm taking high ldose I'm not been retested for vit d levels should I be and also I'm the fourth person in my family my sister and two uncles, nhs are reluctant to test my daughter and son but I don't know what's normal and will it be low in all my families blood tests.

By Prof G



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