By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Drs. Robyn Lucas and Prue Hart are researchers from Australia whom I have followed for years. They speak the truth about the benefits of sunlight and present their research in a cogent and easily understandable manner. Their recent paper, written with other colleagues, is no exception.[i] They show evidence that beyond vitamin D, other photoproducts such as regulatory cells, dendritic cells, chemokines and cytokines,
released from the skin following exposure to ultraviolet radiation, may have protective and ameliorating affects against MS.
Here are the salient points in their report called Ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D and multiple sclerosis:
- There is strong evidence from observational studies that low past sun exposure is associated with an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Lower sun exposure or lower vitamin D status have been linked to more severe MS, that is, more frequent relapses and more rapid progression to disability.
- Vitamin D supplementation trials for people with MS have shown improvement in immunological and MRI parameters, but with little convincing evidence of clinical benefit.
- Higher levels of sun exposure may have benefits for MS-related immune parameters through both vitamin D and non-vitamin D pathways. (emphasis mine)
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may result in immune tolerance that is beneficial for MS through upregulation of T and B regulatory cells, enhanced levels of cis-urocanic acid, alterations in dendritic cell trafficking as well as release of a range of other cytokines and chemokines.
This research is important because it shows that sunlight exposure works on MS in several different ways, one of which may be the stimulation of vitamin D production.
As the authors state: Recognition of multiple pathways whereby exposure to UVR may affect the development of MS could mark the beginning of prevention activities through modulation of an environment risk factor and the development of new therapeutic compounds. The vitamin D star seems to be waning, despite considerable genetic evidence that vitamin D has a role in MS risk. Perhaps it is only one part of a more complex picture. New intervention trials, undertaken in parallel, of vitamin D supplementation and UV-B phototherapy, should provide more definitive evidence – at least for the risk of MS following CIS. A finding that sun exposure, through the entirety of its effects, does have clinical significance as an immunomodulator for the development of MS, offers one of the few opportunities to modify disease risk for MS.”
I have posted other blogs regarding sunlight and MS, indicative that sunlight has protective effects against that malady, beyond its ability to stimulate vitamin D production in the skin. This research by Lucas and her colleagues is important in that it defines some of the other mechanisms of sunlight exposure that could lead to the prevention and potential cure of the disease.
[i] Robyn M Lucas, Scott N Byrne, Jorge Correale, Susanne Ilschner & Prue H Hart. Ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. Neurodegener. Dis. Manag 2015 (epub ahead of print).