News

Genes may play a role in vitamin D deficiency

June 10, 2010

Gene variants may indicate a risk of having low levels of vitamin D, suggests a new study.

An international consortium of researchers analyzed data from 15 epidemiologic groups that included nearly 34,000 whites of European ancestry (1). The team looked at vitamin D concentration levels in the blood as well as genetics. The scientists identified four common gene variants – including those involved with cholesterol, vitamin D metabolism and transporting vitamin D throughout the body – that may play a role in vitamin D deficiency. The researchers found that the more of these variants an individual had, the greater the risk of having low vitamin D levels.

Thus, having too little vitamin D may not be due solely to diet or lack of sunlight, but may also be due to one's genes, the researchers commented. Knowing who carries the gene variants could help doctors identify who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency and could potentially help reduce the risk of low vitamin D before the problem advances.

It is possible that these results could explain why some people respond well to vitamin D supplements and others do not, but this needs to be studied further since the analysis did not specifically examine response to supplementation, the researchers concluded.

Vitamin D deficiency – defined as concentrations lower than 75 nanomoles per liter – is a condition which may affect up to half of all healthy adults in the developed world. It can contribute to poor musculoskeletal health as well as potentially increase the risk of diabetescardiovascular disease, and certain types of common cancers.

References

  1. Wang T.J. et al. Common genetic determinants of vitamin D insufficiency: a genome-wide association study. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 2010.