In April of 2003, scientist speaking on behalf of the Human Genome Project announced they had reached their goal. The collaborative efforts of scientist from across the globe had successfully mapped the entire human genome, the DNA sequences that make up Homo sapiens. The research findings gave rise to a whole new set of fascinating questions about human biology. For example, what caused the gene for a particular trait to be expressed or “turned on” in one person, while that same gene is “silenced” or inactive in another? These inquiries sparked renewed interest in the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics studies heritable and non-heritable changes in gene expression that are not a consequence of altering DNA nucleotides. In other words, epigenetics is how our environment interacts with our genes to affect our appearance, behavior, and biological functions; the link between nature and nurture.
So what does this have to do with vitamin D…? Well, amidst all of the new biochemical studies, research suggest that vitamin D may be responsible for regulating the expression of over 1000 different genes (Patrick, 2013). Many of these genes regulate biochemical pathways associated with certain cancers, autoimmune disorders, transcriptional regulation (copying of a DNA segment to mRNA which will be used to make a protein), and cardiovascular disease (Hoessein-nezhad, Spira, & Holick, 2013), in addition to many other physiological functions. Of course, we are already familiar with the vital role vitamin D plays in the absorption of calcium and magnesium, necessary micronutrients needed to produce dense bones and prevent osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will dedicate a series of articles discussing the latest developments in vitamin D research, the essential role vitamin D plays in our bodies, and the source of vitamin D in our diets. We will also look at the current recommendations for vitamin D levels in the blood and discuss some easy ways to monitor your own baseline blood levels so that you can put the information to use and optimize your personal health! Until next time…
Hoessein-nezhad, A., Spira, A., & Holick, M. F. (2013, March). (R. P. Moray Campbell, Ed.) Public Library of Science, 8(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058725
Patrick, R. P. (2013, August 14). The “Vitamin D Sweet Spot” and its Relationship To Aging. Retrieved from Wellness FX: http://blog.wellnessfx.com/2013/08/14/the-vitamin-d-sweet-spot-and-its-relationship-to-aging/
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