By Marc Sorenson, EdD
New research presents critically important facts regarding sunlight and MS. MS is a disease in which fatty myelin sheaths, responsible for insulating nerves, are attacked and damaged by the body’s own immune system, creating a variety of terrible symptoms.[i] The nerve damage process is known as demyelination. MS is one of many illnesses known as autoimmune diseases.
It has long been recognized that people who live in sunny climes are far less susceptible to contracting MS than those who live in areas where sunlight exposure is more difficult to obtain.[ii] It has been theorized that vitamin D deficiency, resulting from insufficient sunlight, could be the cause of MS; however, it may be lack of sunlight itself, independent of vitamin D, that effects MS. (see my previous blogs on this subject). The latest research lends credence to that idea.
Dr. Y Wang and his colleagues performed an investigation in which ultraviolet radiation (UVR)—the same radiation that is found in sunlight and tanning beds—was administered to animals who suffered from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).[iii] EAE is MS that has been deliberately induced in animals in a laboratory setting. The researchers found that the UVR treatments stopped inflammation and demyelination of the spinal cord by inhibiting a chemical known as a chemokine, also known as a cytokine. Chemokines are the cause of the inflammation and autoimmune attacks that result in MS.
The MS-ameliorating effects shown in the study were directly initiated by UVR, independent of vitamin D.
Stunningly, another study by some of these same investigators determined that vitamin D was actually necessary for EAE to take place![iv] Mice that lacked the vitamin D receptor had a markedly lower risk of developing EAE. In those mice that were simply vitamin D deficient, the development of EAE was also partially suppressed. I do not look on this research as proving that vitamin D sufficiency leads to MS, but it certainly indicates that sunlight exposure, independent of vitamin D, is absolutely critical to prevent and ameliorate this frightening disease.
When considering the causes and the potential preventative and ameliorative effects of sunlight on MS, we know that nearly everyone should take advantage of those beneficial effects of non-burning sunlight exposure. There is blood on the hands of those organizations that promote sunlight avoidance at all costs. Help spread the word!
[i] Compston A, Coles A. Multiple sclerosis. Lancet 2008;372 (9648): 1502–17
[ii]Acheson ED. Some comments on the relationship of the distribution of multiple sclerosis to latitude, solar radiation, and other variables. Acta Neurol Scand 1960;35:132-47.
[iii] Wang Y, Marling SJ, Beaver EF, Severson KS, Deluca HF. UV light selectively inhibits spinal cord inflammation and demyelination in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015 Feb 1;567:75-82.
[iv] Wang Y, Marling SJ, Zhu JG, Severson KS, DeLuca HF. Development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice requires vitamin D and the vitamin D receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 29;109(22):8501-4.