The study, “BMI and low vitamin D are causal factors for multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Neurology Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.
An individual’s risk of developing MS is influenced by both genetics and environmental factors. Among the known environmental factors are low levels of vitamin D, exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus, obesity, and smoking.
Researchers used Mendelian randomization (MR) to evaluate the effects of adult BMI, childhood BMI, and vitamin D on MS risk. MR is a type of analysis used to explore possible associations between genetic variants and certain physical traits to identify causal relationships between these traits and particular outcomes.
The term gene variant describes any change — benign, disease-causing, or not-yet-known — in the DNA sequences that compose a gene. Often, a variant is a mutation.
MR involves constructing a genetic risk score for a given trait — such as BMI — based on information from all genetic variations associated with that trait. The score, rather than the trait itself, is then used to determine causal associations between traits and a particular outcome of interest, such as MS risk.
“Previous MR studies have shown causal relationships between low vitamin D, adult body mass index (BMI), and MS risk, with conflicting results for childhood BMI,” the researchers wrote.
To reassess the causality between these two traits associated with MS risk, researchers at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in the U.K. constructed MR models based on genetic scores of BMI and vitamin D levels.
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