The New Wonder Substance – Vitamin D!

A recent publication in Genome Research points to out the role of Vitamin D in health and well-being and identifies over 200 genes that are directly affected by Vitamin D.

The website ScienceDaily.com carried an article on the study on August 24, 2010 and noted the following:
“The researchers found 2,776 binding sites for the vitamin D receptor along the length of the genome. These were unusually concentrated near a number of genes associated with susceptibility to autoimmune conditions such as MS, Crohn’s disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (or ‘lupus’) and rheumatoid arthritis, and to cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and colorectal cancer.

They also showed that vitamin D had a significant effect on the activity of 229 genes including IRF8, previously associated with MS, and PTPN2, associated with Crohn’s disease and type 1 diabetes.

“Our study shows quite dramatically the wide-ranging influence that vitamin D exerts over our health,” says Dr Andreas Heger from the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford, one of the lead authors of the study.

The first author of the paper, Dr. Sreeram Ramagopalan from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, adds, “There is now evidence supporting a role for vitamin D in susceptibility to a host of diseases. Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years could have a beneficial effect on a child’s health in later life. Some countries such as France have instituted this as a routine public health measure.”

The main source of vitamin D in the body comes from exposing the skin to sunlight, although a diet of oily fish can provide some of the vitamin. Research has previously suggested that lighter skin colour and hair colour evolved in populations moving to parts of the globe with less sun to optimise production of vitamin D in the body. A lack of vitamin D can affect bone development, leading to rickets; in pregnant mothers, poor bone health can be fatal to both mother and child at birth, hence there are selective pressures in favour of people who are able to produce adequate vitamin D.”

The full citation for the article, for those truly inquiring minds among you, is: Ramagopalan SV, Heger A, Berlanga AJ, Maugeri NJ, Lincoln MR, Burrell A, Handunnetthi L, Handel AE, Disanto G, Orton S, Watson CT, Morahan JM, Giovannoni G, Ponting CP, Ebers GC, Knight JC. A ChIP-seq-defined genome-wide map of vitamin D receptor binding: Associations with disease and evolution. Genome Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1101/gr.107920.110


Dr. Darryl Roundy

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