Braveheart inspires Ryan to take MS plea to parliament
A SCHOOLBOY whose mother has multiple sclerosis yesterday led hundreds of supporters to the Scottish Parliament to campaign for free vitamin D to to help combat the illness.
Ryan McLaughlin wants young children and pregnant women to be given free vitamin D supplements, believing it can help prevent MS after scientific studies suggested a link.
The 14-year-old, from Drumchapel, Glasgow, said he decided he had to act when he saw his mother suffering with the incurable disease. His campaign was yesterday supported by the MS Society Scotland.
Ryan said he was inspired by the film Braveheart and by hearing Harry Potter author JK Rowling talk about her mother's battle with MS. He was joined by about 200 supporters, many of them children, in a march down Edinburgh's Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament.
Speaking before putting his case to Holyrood's petitions committee, he said: "I'm going to parliament to try to give them my insight into how my family's been affected and that vitamin D is the answer, in my opinion, to get through this."
William Wallace's speech in Braveheart about having "just one chance" to make a difference gave him inspiration, he said.
Ryan, who attends Knightswood Secondary School, told how his mother was diagnosed with MS two years ago.
"She was a Tae Kwon Do champion along with myself, and going from that to listening to my mum scream in the middle of the night with pain, it's not a nice thing at all. I decided I can't sit here doing nothing – I need to get something done."
Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, but the reasons remain unclear. In February, scientists from Oxford University and Canada published research that suggested doses of vitamin D in pregnancy and childhood might reduce the risk of MS in later years.
Ryan said: "We really need it, because MS is a horrible disease. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemies."
Ryan has used the social networking sites Bebo, Facebook and Twitter to publicise his petition. So far 45 MSPs have backed his campaign.
Ryan's mother Kirsten, 34, said: "Ryan isn't doing this for me, he's doing it for future generations of Scots and that's why I'm so proud of him."
Later, Ryan told the MSPs' committee: "I am Ryan McLaughlin and I have come here today because my mum has multiple sclerosis. It's too late for my mum – we are waiting for a cure."
He said most people in Scotland were vitamin D-deficient for part of the year because of the shortage of sunshine.
"It would cost just a penny per child to ensure that every child in Scotland received the vitamin D they need," Ryan added.
Ryan's father, Alan, suggested adding vitamin D supplements to school milk. "This would be one way of ensuring every child gets protection," he said.
David McNiven, director of MS Society Scotland, said: "
Given the research evidence linking environmental factors with genes involved in MS, and other evidence about the benefits of vitamin D, we are happy to be supporting Ryan's campaign."
SCOTS SUFFER WORSE
A CAMPAIGN to encourage the use of vitamin D to combat multiple sclerosis was spurred by an influential study published earlier this year.
Scientists suggested taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and in the early years of life could reduce the risk of developing MS
Researchers from Oxford University and the University of British Columbia in Canada discovered that the chances of developing MS are influenced by vitamin D levels coupled with a common gene variant.
Children with the genetic mutation may be more at risk of developing the disease if they lack vitamin D while growing in the womb or during their early years of life.
Vitamin D is produced by the sun's rays reaching the skin, with northern countries with cloudier weather having higher rate of vitamin D deficiency. The findings could help explain why Scotland has one of the highest rates of MS in the world – estimated at up to 200 cases per 100,000 people compared with 120 in England and Wales.
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