An international conference is to be held in Scotland to discuss the health effects of vitamin D — thanks to the efforts of a 14-year-old schoolboy.
Ryan McLaughlin, from Glasgow, petitioned the Scottish Parliament questioning possible links between vitamin D and multiple sclerosis after discovering that the disease — from which his mother suffers — could be prevalent in Scotland because of vitamin D deficiency caused by a lack of sunlight.
The petition called on ministers to produce guidelines on vitamin D supplements for children and pregnant women, and launch an awareness campaign. As a result of his efforts, the Scottish government recognised “an urgent need” to provide information to health professionals and mothers, and is to launch a campaign.
Ministers also agreed to host a conference on April 27 to discuss the role of vitamin D. The event, to take place in Glasgow, will be opened by Nicola Sturgeon, the Health Secretary. Leading researchers into links between vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis are expected to attend.
Yesterday, as the Public Petitions Committee agreed to close Ryan’s petition, members congratulated him for his achievement. Bill Butler, Ryan’s local MSP, hailed the schoolboy’s effort, saying that “a very great deal of progress” had been made.
The Glasgow Anniesland representative praised the way “Ryan and the McLaughlin family have persuaded the government; and the government has listened to the very sensible suggestions contained in the petition.
“The government has agreed to a co-ordinated programme of action with NHS Scotland to produce guidance on vitamin D, to educate women on its importance, to consider different messages for different groups of people, and to ensure that health professionals are giving correct and consistent advice to pregnant women and new mothers. Not only should the McLaughlin family be congratulated, but also the government for listening.”
He described that as a significant success. An image of Ryan is now featured on promotional literature for the petitions committee. Speaking about the campaign, Ryan said: “After an amazing year in raising both vitamin D and MS awareness, I now have the commitments that I wanted from the Scottish government.
“I applaud the positive action taken by the Scottish government and the support from Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison, Health and Sports Minister.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “We’re keen to learn all we can about any possible links between vitamin D and multiple sclerosis and are keeping a very close eye on all the emerging evidence.”
• Breast cancer is diagnosed more often in the spring and autumn, and less often in the summer, leading researchers to suggest that its season-ality may be connected to vitamin D deficiency. Researchers at the University of South Carolina, who examined 2,921,714 breast cancer cases, also found that the seasonality was increasingly prominent the further away from the equator that the women lived. This implies that lack of sunshine, and therefore vitamin D, was a factor.
Source: Times Online Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.(10/02/10)