Geomagnetic Disturbances and Multiple Sclerosis- When the members of the Fantastic Four ventured out into space and were struck with ‘Cosmic Rays’ they returned to earth with super powers. I’ve just read a fascinating paper which suggests that extra-terrestrial solar activity didn’t give me super powers but may have contributed my developing multiple sclerosis.
I would have rather of received super powers.
The paper, “Geomagnetic Disturbances and Multiple Sclerosis,” by Seyed Aidin Sajedi and Fahimeh Abdollahi was published in 2012 in BMC Neurology and was a fascinating read. The paper actually challenges the notions I’ve had regarding vitamin D and MS. The “Vitamin D Hypothesis” relates the prevalence of multiple sclerosis and the distance from the equator (latitude). Basically it can be summed up as, “the further away a population is from the equator, the higher the rates of MS.” However, the authors of this paper point out:
But there is an important feature in MS prevalence that seems to be neglected by researchers who seek the key of MS explanation by vitamin D hypothesis (VDH). This fact is that MS prevalence gradient is different in north and south hemispheres and is not linear everywhere. Based on epidemiological data, this gradient is parabolic in north hemisphere, while seems linear in the south hemisphere. This feature was identified from the first reports of this gradient  up to the most recent study .
As a result, they propose a different way of looking at the geographic distribution of multiple sclerosis. Rather than looking at traditional latitude, the authors look at the Earth’s geomagnetic field (GMF) and the disturbances related to the field (GMD). The GMF can be plotted much like latitude but rather than using the Earth’s geographic poles, geomagnetic coordinates are defined using the Earth’s magnetic dipoles. These poles aren’t static and change over time which means the relative geomagnetic latitude and longitude of each location, “are completely different from its geographical coordinates.”
According to the authors, the ‘sweetspot’ for MS activity using geomagnetic coordinates is + 60 degrees geomagnetic latitude. Have a look at the chart below from the paper:
I wasn’t surprised to find my home (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) was very close to the geomagnetic 60 degree line running through North Western Canada. I’ve always felt better when I’ve travelled south and I always assumed it was due to coming closer to the equator and the increased exposure to sunlight. As of reading this study, I’m not entirely sure. Is it the availability of sunlight that makes me feel better of the activity of the sun and the effect it has on the Earth’s geomagnetic field which is the reason? Definitely something compelling to ponder.
The paper makes numerous interesting points, but one I really caught my eye. The authors write:
Even with its low magnitude, GMF affects living beings. It was shown that in a weakened GMF situation, by using shielded chamber, hormonal disturbances occur in animal models, especially in the blood level of epinephrine, histamine and serotonin. Plants also are influenced by it and weakened GMF can cause changes inroot meristems and subcellular structures like mitochondria.
Dr. Terry Wahl’s dietary protocol is based on providing the correct nutrients for mitochondrial health. So if the earth’s geomagnetic field has been show to have an effect on the health of the mitochondria, wouldn’t this strengthen Dr. Wahl’s approach to treating MS?
The other interesting point that the article raises concerns why MS rates seem to fluctuate over time and why there has been a rise in the last century. The authors demonstrate how solar activity has been be historically tracked for 11,400 years via the recording of sunspot numbers. These numbers correlate with GMD. What this research shows is that there has been, “exceptional solar magnetic activity since 70 years ago that is unprecedented in the last 8,000 years.” Due to this increased activity,
As a result, if MS is regarded a phenomenon related to GMD, it not only can explain why MS or reports of clinical manifestations resembling MS were rare in 19th century and in medicine history of all previous centuries , but also it can clarify why MS incidence and prevalence have raised during 20th century.
So it is very possible we are living in an ‘age of MS’ due to the activity of the sun.
I like it when my notions are challenged and this paper certainly did that. I have been a strong believer in the role of the sun and vitamin D to the development of multiple sclerosis. This paper does indicate the sun’s role in MS, but it is different that what I have come to believe. The article referenced does show a tighter correlation between geomagnetic coordinates than traditional geographic latitude. However, there is evidence which indicates that Vitamin D plays a role as well. The paper also does not refute the work of researchers like Dr. Terry Wahls as the paper indicates that geomagnetic properties around the world can have an effect on the mitochondria which is the very part of the brain which Dr. Wahls focusses on. Given there has never been a really air-tight explanation regarding the geographic distribution of MS, this paper is definitely worth a read.