Parliament gives healthy response to vitamin D advances

A Crossford woman diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998 was among the speakers at a presentation in the Scottish Parliament explaining the health advantages of vitamin D.

Sue Polson, an active member of the MS Society’s Research Network and its Steering Group, argued the “overwhelming” case for supplementing the population of Scotland with the vitamin.

She said: “When you combine the evidence for the benefits of Vitamin D in other conditions, surely the case for supplementation is overwhelming? MS alone costs this country a vast amount of money; it costs each family concerned a whole way of life, and it costs the person with MS their future.”

Attending the event, MSP for Dunfermline Bill Walker said: “Though vitamin D is necessary for our health, it is often lacking in Scotland due to poor sunlight and our modern life-styles. Recent research has shown a vitamin D deficiency in 84% of our population, but this can be overcome with relatively cheap supplements and by eating more fish.

”Researchers are discovering that adequate vitamin D assists in resisting MS, depression, various cancers, diabetes and heart disease.

“A good number of MSPs will now be pressing for the NHS to provide more information to the public. Patients can, of course, also consult their GPs and request blood tests to monitor their current vitamin D level.”


Sue Polson’s address at the Vitamin D Event in the Scottish Parliament, 27 March 2013:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a person who has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for the past 15 years, I am delighted to be part of this group because it has brought home to me that Vitamin D deficiency is not just a serious issue for my own disease but for so many other illnesses.  I have learned much from my colleagues and am glad to add my experience of MS and our Vitamin D story.
The search for the causes of MS has gone on for decades.  As Dr Rhein has already mentioned, it is now become evident that environmental, genetic and viral factors play a major role. The MS community has known for some years that the further you live from the equator, the greater the incidence of MS.  With a ratio of three women to one man (I think there’s something pretty unfair there), two and a half million people have MS worldwide with over 10,500 cases in Scotland, meaning we have the highest incidence of MS in the world (the top prize going to Orkney).  We know it is the most common, potentially disabling condition of the central nervous system affecting young adults and we know it generally hits them between 20 and 40 years of age right at the time they begin to take their place in the world and start a family.  In addition, because of improved diagnostic methods, we are sadly aware of childhood MS with diagnoses as young as 2 years old.  
Back in 2009, researchers at Oxford University and the University of Columbia established a direct relationship between Vitamin D and a common genetic variant.  In uncomplicated terms, for those with that variant gene, Vitamin D is required to switch on a particular sequence.  If there is too little of the vitamin, the researchers found that the gene will not function properly increasing the risk of developing MS.
In 2010, in conjunction with young Ryan MacLaughlin, leader of Shine on Scotland (which I am sure all MSPs will remember), the MS Society brought together some of the top international researchers at a Vitamin D and MS Summit held in Glasgow and introduced by Nicola Sturgeon.  As one of only two MS patients present, I was privileged to hear formidable and overwhelming arguments for supplementing the Scottish population with Vitamin D, particularly pregnant mothers and young children.  
I left that Summit content that things were moving forward and that Scotland might rightly be the first to re-introduce supplementation of Vitamin D.  I very soon discovered that the whole issue had disappeared south to London and had become a subject for examination by a Working Group within the Department of Health with no result expected until 2014 (that’s 4 years, 4 very long years).  As health is supposed to be a devolved issue, I had thought it would be looked at by the Food Standards Agency here.  Obviously I was wrong.  So, Ladies and Gentlemen, although we now know one of the major risk factors in developing MS and are able to reduce that risk relatively easily and cheaply, we have met with a concrete wall and cannot move forward – unless our Scottish Parliament cares to flex its muscles and take back the issue of our population’s health!
When you combine the evidence for the benefits of Vitamin D in other conditions surely the case for supplementation is overwhelming?  MS alone costs this country a vast amount of money;   it costs each family concerned a whole way of life and it costs the person with MS their future.   It is obviously too late for me, but for those still in infancy and indeed those yet to be born, we have the opportunity now to reduce the risk that they will have to live through what I, and so many other Scots have had to endure.  


Further sources of information:

Vitamin D PDF

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