Can your genes predict vitamin D deficiency?
In a new study, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland looked at how genes can help determine if a person could benefit from adding vitamin D supplements on a long-term basis.
With past studies showing that vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of health issues, including high blood pressure, chronic disease and a weakened immune system, researchers hope that by examining gene expressions, through a blood sample, they can determine who really needs vitamin D supplements.
Gene expressions are used to determine the breakdown of the genes’ proteins and molecules.
Researchers gave 71 pre-diabetic participants a daily placebo dose of vitamin D, during a five-month period in winter. They examined how the vitamin D boosts changed the gene patterns, in particular a gene that affects the immune system and one that helps reduce blood clots.
Results, published in the journal PLoS One, revealed that these two genes, CD14 and thrombomodulin, affected in particular, can be significant biomarkers to measure a person’s vitamin D levels long term and serve as a guideline to prevent future health issues.
The 411 on vitamin D
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunlight, and is crucial to maintain healthy calcium levels and strong bones. It is an important nutrient that helps muscles move, signals nerve functions and fights bacteria and viruses.
“Vitamin D deficiency can sneak up on you without any noticeable symptoms,” warns Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill. “The problem is that some serious complications are associated with low vitamin D over time, such as rickets and softer bones.”
She also says that some research has shown that low vitamin D levels can be tied to incidences of certain types of cancer or even heart disease.
“Many of the foods we eat are natural or have fortified sources of vitamin D, such as fish, eggs and milk,” she says. “You can also get vitamin D from the sun, but you have to beware of skin cancer. And winters can be rather dark, so if you do have low levels, a supplement is a safe alternative.”
She recommends consulting with your physician about your vitamin D levels to find out if supplements are right for you.
About the Author
Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.