Schoolboy’s campaign gets backing from world-renowned scientist

The McLaughlin family (left to right, Ryan, Darren, Alan and Kirsten) meet Cathy Jamieson (centre) at the parliament
The McLaughlin family (left to right, Ryan, Darren, Alan and Kirsten) meet Cathy Jamieson (centre) at the parliament

By Cara Sulieman

A SCOTS schoolboy campaigning for better treatment for MS suffers like his mum has received the backing of a top scientist.

Plucky Ryan McLaughlin, 14, from Glasgow, started a campaign to get the Scottish Government to supply free Vitamin D supplements to Scots after claims a lack of sunshine in this country made the condition worse.

His mum Kirsten has battled the disease for years.

Now Oliver Gillie, a respected medical writer and researcher who has been working on research into the benefits of Vitamin D for some years, is lending his support to the teenager.

Scotland’s climate

Mr Gillie said there was clear evidence that Scotland’s climate meant people often didn’t get enough benefit.

He said: “The scientific evidence tells us that insufficient vitamin D in pregnancy and early years is the cause of MS as well as other serious diseases.

“MS could be largely prevented if pregnant and nursing mothers and children in Scotland were able to get more vitamin D.

“There isn’t enough sun or enough time when the sun is out to get all we need that way in Scotland.

“So it is logical to take a vitamin D supplement.”

Vitamins from food

He added: “Foods such as milk, orange juice and bread should be available with added vitamin D so people can choose to get their extra D that way if they want.

“But help is needed from the government to make all this easy for people.

“I wish this campaign every success, it is just what Scotland needs.”

Scotland has the highest rate of MS in the world, and Ryan helped researchers to establish that a lack of sunlight can heighten the risk of MS and that vitamin D supplements given during pregnancy could prevent the disease later in life.

Top researchers

Sitting at his home computer day and night, Ryan corresponded by email with top research scientists at Oxford University and British Columbia University in Canada to share information on the disease.

Ryan’s mum Kirsten, 34, has suffered from the disease for two years and has had more than 13 relapses.

Ryan’s work on the campaign has brought the family closer together. Ryan’s 10-year-old brother Darren has learned about the disease and helped his brother with the campaign.

His mum said: “The kids know a lot about MS, how it doesn’t just affect one person but the entire family.”

“Crying in the night”

Ryan’s dad, Alan, said: “It’s been difficult. The kids have seen their mum in pain. They have heard her crying in the night because the pain is so bad.

“They call MS the invisible disease because you don’t see the full effects.

“You see someone when they are feeling their best, when they’re out and about. You don’t see them during a relapse or when they’re in agony.”

Kirsten and Alan are incredibly proud of their son’s efforts. Alan said: “We’ve helped, but this has been Ryan’s idea.”


As part of the campaign Ryan has addressed MSPs and will deliver a petition to Holyrood next month to urge the Scottish Government to provide vitamin D to all schoolchildren and pregnant women.

He said: “I’m doing it to help my mum and other families in our situation. I think we can bring about change for future generations and prevent more cases of MS.

“People like my mum have had to suffer enough with this disease.

“We believe that with something as simple as vitamin D we can get rid of the tag that Scotland is the MS capital of the world.”