Sarah Boseley
The Guardian
August 24, 2010

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t
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Insufficient exposure to sunshine, resulting in low levels of vitamin D, could play a part in a wide-range of diseases, from multiple sclerosis to rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, some cancers and even dementia, scientists say today.

A study funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and others, has succeeded in mapping the points at which vitamin D interacts with DNA. Scientists from Oxford University found that the vitamin exerts a direct influence over 229 genes that are known to be involved with certain diseases. Many of the diseases that are implicated are more common in the northern hemisphere than in sunnier, southern climes.

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Scotland, for instance, has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. The disease is virtually unknown in Africa. The study, published in the journal Genome Research, lends substantial support to the hypothesis that the migration of humankind, hundreds of thousands of years ago, to the colder and darker parts of the world had an effect both on skin colour and on susceptibility to certain sorts of disease.

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