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Study: Vitamin D influences more than 200 human genes

Researchers at the University of Oxford have discovered that more than 200 human genes show “significant changes in expression in response to vitamin D,” including those associated with auto-immune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and Crohn’s disease, and with certain cancers and type 1 diabetes. The study, published online in Genome Research earlier this week, used DNA sequencing technology to map vitamin D binding sites, and found more than 2,700 of them—highly concentrated near these genes.

“Our study shows quite dramatically the wide-ranging influence that vitamin D exerts over our health,” said Andreas Heger, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study. Another of the study’s authors Sreeram Ramagopalan, PhD, added: “There is now evidence supporting a role for vitamin D in susceptibility to a host of diseases.”

Up to 36 percent of American adults are estimated to have inadequate levels of vitamin D, and most vitamin D intake comes through exposure to sunlight—a problem for people living in northern climes. But Andrew Shao, PhD, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, doesn’t see the study as a call for supplementation. “The information is not particularly new—researchers have known for years that many genes are responsive to vitamin D … . This latest analysis reinforces that … and may help point researchers in other directions for studying the clinical benefits of vitamin D. But this reveals nothing about how much vitamin D people should consume.”

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, the MS Society, the Wellcome Trust and MS Society of Canada.

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