Is hypovitaminosis D one of the environmental risk factors for multiple sclerosis?Brain 2010; 133(Pt 7):1869-88B
The role of hypovitaminosis D as a possible risk factor for multiple sclerosis is reviewed. First, it is emphasized that hypovitaminosis D could be only one of the risk factors for multiple sclerosis and that numerous other environmental and genetic risk factors appear to interact and combine to trigger the disease. Secondly, the classical physiological notions about vitamin D have recently been challenged and the main new findings are summarized. This vitamin could have an important immunological role involving a number of organs and pathologies, including autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, human requirements for this vitamin are much higher than previously thought, and in medium- or high-latitude countries, they might not be met in the majority of the general population due to a lack of sunshine and an increasingly urbanized lifestyle. Thereafter, the different types of studies that have helped to implicate hypovitaminosis D as a risk factor for multiple sclerosis are reviewed. In experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, vitamin D has been shown to play a significant immunological role. Diverse epidemiological studies suggest that a direct chain of causality exists in the general population between latitude, exposure to the sun, vitamin D status and the risk of multiple sclerosis. New epidemiological analyses from France support the existence of this chain of links. Recently reported immunological findings in patients with multiple sclerosis have consistently shown that vitamin D significantly influences regulatory T lymphocyte cells, whose role is well known in the pathogenesis of the disease. Lastly, in a number of studies on serum levels of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis, an insufficiency was observed in the great majority of patients, including at the earliest stages of the disease. The questionable specificity and significance of such results is detailed here. Based on a final global analysis of the cumulative significance of these different types of findings, it would appear likely that hypovitaminosis D is one of the risk factors for multiple sclerosis.