Babies born with low levels of vitamin D may be more likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life compared with babies born with higher levels of vitamin D.

In a study published in Neurology, investigators used the Danish National Biobank, which stores dried blood spot samples from newborn screening tests. They identified everyone in Denmark included in the biobank, who were born since April 30, 1981, and had onset of MS by 2012.

Blood spot samples from 521 individuals were compared with 972 individuals of the same sex and birthday who did not have MS.

In the study, insufficient levels of vitamin D in newborns was defined as less than 50 nmol/L, and levels higher than or equal to 50 nmol/L were considered sufficient.

The participants were divided into 5 groups based on their vitamin D levels, with the bottom group having levels less than 21 nmol/L, and the top group with levels higher than or equal to 49 nmol/L, according to the study. There were 136 patients with MS and 193 participants without MS in the bottom group, and 89 individuals with MS and 198 without MS in the top group.

The results of the study showed that participants in the top group appeared to be 47% less likely to develop MS later in life than those in the bottom group.

The authors emphasized that although these findings are enlightening, they do not prove that increasing vitamin D levels reduces the risk of MS.

“More research is needed to confirm these results, but our results may provide important information to the ongoing debate about vitamin D for pregnant women,” said study author Nete Munk Nielsen, MD, MSc, PhD.

Some limitations to the study were dried blood spot samples that were only available for vitamin D analysis for 67% of MS patients born during that time period; vitamin D levels were based on 1 measurement; the study did not include people who developed MS at an older age since participants were 30 years or younger; the Danish population is predominately white, so the results may not be generalizable to other populations; and it cannot be excluded that this beneficial effect could be mediated through other factors in later life, such as vitamin D levels. In these cases, a potential maternal vitamin D supplementation would not reduce the risk of MS in their babies.