Scientists from Oxford University have made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of why lack of vitamin D seems to be associated with several common autoimmune and other diseases.

Studying the human genome, they searched for sites where the vitamin D receptor binds. These were more plentiful near the genes associated with certain common autoimmune diseases and some cancers.

The autoimmune diseases most closely associated were multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes, lupus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn's Disease.

Interestingly, in light of the developing epidemiological evidence about lack of sun exposure being associated with the development of certain cancers, they also found strong associations with bowel cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Perhaps surprisingly, the associations were stronger for the other diseases than MS. While this link may have been developed from research into the known latitude gradient for MS, it suggests that potentially, vitamin D may have even greater implications for people with these other diseases.