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NIH-supported scientists find genes influence susceptibility to problems from vitamin D deficiency

An international team of researchers has found that the vitamin D receptor gene (VDR), which senses and communicates the presence of vitamin D to the body, influences the chance that people with vitamin D deficiency develop negative health outcomes. Some variants of VDR may have a protective effect, while others might increase these people’s predisposition for the outcomes, specifically hip fracture, heart attack, cancer, and even death. This finding helps explain why some people with vitamin D deficiency have few health issues and others have life-threatening complications. The study was published online in The Journal of the American Medical Association on November 14, 2012.

Researchers involved in the study, which was supported in part by several components of the NIH, including the NIA, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, suggest that understanding the underlying genetic characteristics related to vitamin D metabolism may ultimately help move treatment closer to a personalized and more effective approach. For instance, if a gene is preventing the body from using the little vitamin D it has, vitamin D supplements might not help avoid adverse outcomes.

Scientists analyzed data from participants of NHLBI’s Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS); NIA’s Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study; the Invecchiare in Chianti (InChianti) study in Italy; and the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men (ULSAM) in Sweden.

Reference: Levin GP, et al. Genetic Variants and Associations of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations With Major Clinical Outcomes. JAMA.Published online November 14, 2012.