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article imageStudy: MS rates highest in the world in Northern Scotland

By Kathleen Blanchard     Dec 11, 2012 in Health
University of Edinburgh researchers have found rates of multiple sclerosis are highest in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. The study results shows rates have increased since 1980.
The study suggests there may be a more definitive link between the neurological disease and lack of sunshine than previously understood.
MS afflicts approximately 400 out of 100,000 people living in the Scotland area that is also more common among women than men.
The finding adds to a growing body of evidence linking lack of vitamin D from sunshine to multiple sclerosis.
The Mayo Clinic, U.S., notes that several studies have found maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D might provide some protection against MS that causes neurological symptoms from destruction of the myelin sheath that covers nerve cells.
The disease in unpredictable and affects people of all ages. Symptoms include loss of balance, muscle weakness and lack of muscle control, spasms and difficulty walking.
Study author Dr. Jim Wilson, of the University of Edinburgh centre for population said in a press release, “These findings may reflect improved diagnostic methods, improved survival or rising incidence. We are trying to work out why it is so high, but it is at least partly to do with genes."
The researchers say vitamin D and lack of strong sunshine might be causing the high rates of the disease found in the study, but it’s not likely to be the only factor. The investigation is ongoing.
Dr. Wilson says, "We have 2,300 people in Orkney who are having their vitamin D measured. We will certainly get the answer.”
The current investigation is a follow-up. Researchers knew 30 years ago that MS rates were high in Northern Scotland.
The study.published in May of this year, looked at the incidence of multiple sclerosis in Aberdeen, Orkney and Shetland to find out if there has been any change, finding that rates are increasing. The question is why? Finding the answer could lend new insights into the mysterious disease.
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