Crusading 15-year-old who's aiming to save Scots from MS for a pittance

VITAMIN D supplements costing as little as £5 a year per person could help Scots avoid serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, a conference organised by a campaigning teenager has heard.

Growing evidence suggests that lack of the so-called "sunshine vitamin" - produced by the body in reaction to sunlight - could help explain why Scotland, with inadequate levels of winter sun, has the highest rate of MS in the world.

Yesterday a conference in Clydebank heard that giving Scots access to weekly vitamin D supplements on prescription could in future reduce the numbers suffering MS - currently believed to stand at 10,500.

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The call came after 15-year-old Ryan McLaughlin, from Glasgow, launched a campaign to highlight the suspected links between MS and vitamin D after his mother, Kirsten, was diagnosed with the condition.

His tireless work, including taking his concerns to the Scottish Parliament, led to the conference, supported by the MS Society Scotland, where leading experts on vitamin D and MS gathered to consider how to take the medical evidence forward.

Professor George Ebers, professor of clinical neurology at Oxford University, said evidence was growing that lack of vitamin D - a serious problem in Scotland - could be causing higher rates of MS in the country.

Prof Ebers suggested that many people now believed recommending vitamin D supplements on a population level could be helpful.

The researcher said putting it in food, like some countries do with folic acid to reduce birth defects, was difficult because people did not eat the same things.

"It will all depend on what people will tolerate," he said.

"One thing that has been floated is would they take supplementation, perhaps once a week all year? The safest way to do it, we think, is to take a vitamin D supplement."

Yesterday Ryan spoke with pride about his campaign, citing inspiration from the film Braveheart for driving him on in his speech to delegates.

"I believe that vitamin D will make a difference, but I think it will take quite a time before we see those differences," he said later. "Vitamin D needs to be put in today because there can't be any more delays."

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Mrs McLaughlin, 35, who was diagnosed with MS three and a half years ago, also expressed her pride in what Ryan had done.

"I am tremendously proud of what he has achieved, not just to highlight the benefits of vitamin D but to raise awareness of MS," she said.

Ryan also received support from JK Rowling, who has supported MS research.

"I have been so very impressed by Ryan's campaign to get Vitamin D introduced as a preventative measure," she said.


RYAN McLaughlin said yesterday after the launch of the campaign:

"More awareness is still key for any type of disease. An awareness of vitamin D will show them the dangers and the risks that they are taking by not taking vitamin D ... There are children being born every minute and not having adequate protection that they seriously need. I would like it on prescription and readily available for everybody."

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