Discover: Bone Health

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients naturally found in foods and are essential for vital activities in your body, including keeping the bones strong. It’s important to keep our bones healthy and strong to help them with their important roles in our body to support us and allow us to move, protect our vital organs and store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.  For a dancer, knowing what you can do to keep your bones healthy is very important. Since peak bone mass is determined by age 20, you should do everything you can when you are young to ensure your peak bone mass is as high as possible. Weight bearing activities, such as dance, have a positive effect on increasing or maintaining peak bone mass. If peak bone mass decreases, a fracture threshold may be reached, and bones may be more vulnerable to breakage. This is particularly important to dancers, whom over their career, may find themselves with recurrent stress fractures.

Your DNA education will help you understand how your body processes Vitamin A, Calcium and Vitamin D so that you can make better health choices that will help you maintain good bone health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A And The BCMO1 Gene

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for the body’s metabolism and is essential for healthy bones, skin, hair, nails, night vision, reproductive health and a strong immune system.

Vitamin A influences both the bone building cells (osteoblasts) and the bone breaking down cells (osteoclasts). Evidence shows that too little or too much Vitamin A can be detrimental for bone health, and the balance between pre-formed Vitamin A (carotenoids) and active Vitamin A (retinoids) is similarly important. Maintaining adequate levels of both forms of Vitamin A is very important for your bones.

The amount of Vitamin A that the body can use may be influenced by the BCMO1 gene. This gene produces the enzyme responsible for converting Vitamin A you get from your diet through plant products (the carotenoid called beta-carotene) into active Vitamin A.


Calcium and the GC & VDR Genes

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The main role of Calcium in the body is to grow healthy bones, support growth and minimise bone loss later in life. Almost all Calcium in the body is found in bones and teeth. Good levels of Calcium and Vitamin D are crucial for strong bones. Low Calcium levels may result in low bone mass, high fracture rates and osteoporosis. Calcium absorption is dependent on Vitamin D. When Vitamin D levels are low your body is not able to absorb and use the Calcium from your diet and starts taking Calcium out of your bones. This makes your bones weak and prevents the formation of new bone. Calcium also has a role to play in muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Adequate intake is vital for long-term healthy bones for everyone, but even more important for dancers.

Calcium seems to play a central role in the activation of cells of the immune system. Recent findings suggest that Calcium can influence the progression and outcome of the development of lung infections.

The amount of Calcium that your body can use is affected by your current diet, your Vitamin D levels and other hormonal factors. Calcium absorption is indirectly influenced by certain genes that affect your overall Calcium balance by controlling Vitamin D levels. Such genes include GC and VDR.

The GC gene regulates Calcium absorption by ensuring enough Vitamin D is transported throughout the body.The VDR gene controls Calcium absorption by regulating the activity of other genes that act indirectly on Calcium. Your overall likelihood of Calcium availability and your bodys Calcium needs are calculated by combining your results for GC and VDR.     

Vitamin D

Calcium And The GC, CYPR1 And DHCR7 Genes

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that your body can make with the help of sunlight. It is also naturally found in a few foods and it can be stored in the body. Vitamin D plays a major role in forming and maintaining bone. Its main function in bone health is to maintain Calcium and Phosphorus levels in the blood to ensure that bones grow stronger and denser. When Vitamin D levels are low, your body is not able to absorb and use the Calcium from your diet and starts taking Calcium out of your bones. This makes your bones weak and prevents the formation of new bone. 

Other roles for Vitamin D have recently been found in the nervous system, reproductive system, immunity, muscles and more. It is well established that Vitamin D increases the immune response by increasing the production of molecules to fight pathogens, therefore Vitamin D deficiency has a strong impact on the immune system. Strong evidence indicates a protective effect of Vitamin D supplementation on respiratory tract infections, like flu, colds or pneumonia. Interestingly, blood Vitamin D levels are inversely correlated with percentage body fat due to excessive storage of Vitamin D in adipose tissue.

Research shows that often dancers have chronically low levels of Vitamin D, most likely because of their restrictive diets and all the time they spend indoors in studios and theaters.

The amount of Vitamin D that the body can use may be influenced by at least three genes: GC, CYP2R1 and DHCR7. Each of these genes controls a different aspect of Vitamin D formation and utilisation in the body:

  • The GC gene produces the main transporter for Vitamin D throughout the body.
  • The CYP2R1 gene is responsible for converting inactive Vitamin D into the active form in the blood.
  • The DHCR7 gene influences how much Vitamin D is made from exposure to sunlight on the skin.

Your overall likelihood of Vitamin D levels and your body’s Vitamin D needs are calculated by combining your results for GC, CYP2R1 and DHCR7. 

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