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Vitamin D Receptor (VDR): An Introduction

The Vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene is associated with the synthesis of Vitamin D receptor, a cell membrane receptor that binds to vitamin D.

Specific alleles of this gene are known to either increase or decrease the sensitivity of the body to the effects of Vitamin D. This receptor is involved in the intestinal transport of calcium, iron and other minerals.

Variants of the gene are shown to be associated with changes in the levels of vitamin D levels and power.

Vitamin D plays an important role in stimulating calcium absorption and also in bone mineralization by promoting osteoblast differentiation.

Association with Vitamin D levels:

The taq1 polymorphism (rs731236) of the VDR gene is associated with Vitamin D levels among Indians. People with the T variant of the gene were associated with lower serum vitamin D levels.

Association with Power:

A study conducted on identifying handgrip strength, which is indicative of muscle strength, showed that there was a significant association between taq1 polymorphism and muscle strength.

People with the C variant of the gene are found to be better at power-based activities than endurance.

Genotype rs731236PhenotypeRecommendations
CC[Advantage] More likely to have higher Vitamin D levels [Advantage] Better muscle growth and bone density on strength trainingLikely normal levels of vitamin D Include vitamin D rich food in the diet like fish and eggs Include strength and power training in the fitness regimen
CT[Advantage] More likely to have higher Vitamin D levels [Advantage] Better muscle growth and bone density on strength trainingLikely normal levels of vitamin D Include vitamin D rich food in the diet like fish and eggs Include strength and power training in the fitness regimen
TT[Limitation] More likely to have lower Vitamin D levels [Limitation] Lower level of muscle growth and bone density on strength trainingLikely lower vitamin D levels Spend time outdoors under the sun and include vitamin D rich foods in the diet

What is vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D is responsible for bone strength in the human body.

It helps the body utilize the calcium absorbed from the diet effectively. 

Some natural sources of vitamin D include sunlight and a variety of foods like fish, egg yolk, fortified dairy and grain products, etc.

Insufficient vitamin D supply causes a serious condition called vitamin D deficiency. 

Approximately, 1 billion individuals worldwide, that is, nearly 15% of the world's population have this deficiency. 

What are the signs of vitamin D deficiency?

Most people tend to oversee the signs and fail to realize that they have this deficiency. Here is what can be looked out for:

What are the risk factors or causes of vitamin D deficiency?

Certain medical conditions can predispose an individual to be deficient in vitamin D levels. These include:

You may also be interested in: What do genes tell us about vitamin D requirements?

How does vitamin D deficiency affect your health?

Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is linked to many serious disorders like:

What are the best food sources of vitamin D?

Very few food items naturally contain vitamin D. Including them in your diet would greatly help alleviate vitamin D deficiency. 

Is vitamin D deficiency genetic?

Research has identified four genetic variants that are associated with vitamin D deficiency.

These genes are involved in metabolization and transportation of vitamin D in the body.

More such genetic variants inherited, the higher the risk for low vitamin D levels in the body.

Does your 23andme, Ancestry DNA, FTDNA raw data have VDR gene variant information?

23andMe (Use your 23andme raw data to know your VDR Variant)
v1 23andmePresent
v2 23andmePresent
v3 23andmePresent
v4 23andmePresent
V5 23andme (current chip)Present
AncestryDNA  (Use your ancestry DNA raw data to know your VDR Variant)
v1 ancestry DNAPresent
V2 ancestry DNA (current chip)Present
Family Tree DNA  (Use your FTDNA raw data to know your VDR Variant)
OmniExpress microarray chipPresent



“Nutrigenetics, fitness genetics, health genetics are all nascent but rapidly growing areas within human genetics. The information provided herein is based on preliminary scientific studies and it is to be read and understood in that context.”

Vitamin D and health

Vitamin D is a hot topic these days. We get it from the sun, fortified milk, butter, ghee, soybeans, soy milk, cheese, eggs and certain types of fish and mushrooms. It’s usually credited with promoting bone strength and overall health. And vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many chronic diseases, including, but not limited to, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.

A recent study revealed that a whopping 70% of the Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency. This study further adds that sunlight exposure is not a tenable solution to obtain vitamin D sufficiency among Indians, as darker skin has high melanin content and produces a significantly lesser amount of vitamin D when compared with individuals with fairer skin. Indian skin tone requires daily sunlight exposure of at least 45 minutes to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D.

Vitamin D and genes

You may also need more vitamin D depending on the genes that you carry. Variations in two genes, GC and VDR, are responsible for lower vitamin D levels. The GC gene produces the main transporter of vitamin D in circulation while VDR  gene produces vitamin D receptor which allows the body to respond appropriately to vitamin D. Compared to others, people carrying one type of GC and one type of  VDR  need to ensure they have adequate sun exposure or dietary intake of vitamin D to avoid deficiency.

Diet and vitamin D

Various nutritional factors attributing to high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in India are:

Most Indians are vegetarians and most of the foods rich in vitamin D are of animal origin. Indian diets are low in calcium and high in phytate. High prevalence of lactose intolerance is a major factor for reduced intake of calcium and vitamin D. Intake of caffeine from coffee and tea is high in India.

Factors such as age (old age), body weight (people with a body mass index of 30 or greater), problems of the digestive tract like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis, kidney problems results in low blood levels of vitamin D.

The National Institute of Nutrition recommends 200 units, 5 mcg of vitamin D everyday. The following are the recommendations from the vitamin D council:

It is essential to maintain healthy levels by including fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk and other fortified foods such as cereals etc. Vitamin D supplements could be a good alternative. Many forms of vitamin D exist, with vitamin D3 the most effectively used in the body. Get adequate sunlight exposure: The amount of vitamin D you get from exposing your bare skin to the sun depends on the time of the day, where you live, the color of your skin and the amount of skin you expose.

Want to know what type of VDR and GC gene you have, Xcode’s nutrigenetics test can tell you what versions of the VDR & GC gene you have in your DNA. You can also learn about how your genes may influence other traits, including your risk for certain diseases.  You can write to us at

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