Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, pathologically characterized by inflammation, demyelination, and axonal damage, presumably auto-immune in nature. Complex interactions between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, such as vitamin D status and primary Epstein-Barr virus infection in adolescence or later in life, probably determine the MS risk. Norway at a latitude 58-71 degrees N is a discrete exception to the hypothesis that solar UV radiation exposure, mediated by vitamin D, coheres with the latitude gradient seen for MS prevalence. Where UV radiation exposure is low in Norway,vitamin D sufficiency is maintained through a traditional diet providing vitamin D as well as marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. This observation supports an environmental interaction between diet and latitude, with vitamin D as the common mediator. The potential roles of vitamin D, other environmental exposures, and genes in the complex aetiology of MS are discussed in this review.
(c) 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel