Vitamin D: How Genetics Impact Deficiencies
June 22, 2021
On today’s podcast I had the great pleasure to speak with Dr. Mansoor Mohammed of The DNA Company. Dr. Mansoor took us through a deep dive into the intricate science of Vitamin D. He shared his wealth of knowledge with you on how these hormones and how your genetic makeup can impact deficiencies in your body.
- Is it misleading to think of Vitamin as just a vitamin? (5:09)
- What is Vitamin D (8:12)
- How does Vitamin D affect us based on where we live?(11:01)
- What’s happening to D3 once it gets into your gut and bloodstream. (17:07)
- Hormones: what they are and how do they work? (20:38)
- What happens when one tenth of our operating system can’t do their jobs unless Vitamin D is doing its job. (28:14)
- Vitamin D and our genetics. (32:23)
- The other supplementation that’s important for a Vitamin D deficiency. (38:39)
- How the process works with The DNA Company and how you can get your own testing done for you or your child. (43:12)
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More about Dr. Mansoor Mohammed
Dr. Mansoor is the President and CSO of The DNA Company, a leading and innovative provider of comprehensive Functional Genomics testing, consulting, and personalized health solutions. Dr. Mansoor is widely regarded as a pioneer in medical genomics and has been the recipient of multiple academic and industry awards. He is the holder of several patents in the general fields of molecular diagnostics and genomics research and is one of the most sought-after national and international conference speakers in the genre of personalized medicine.
Dr. Mansoor maintains an active clinical practice as a genomics consultant to some of the leading executive health clinics in Canada and abroad. Dr. Mohammed has served on the Canadian Board of Autistic Research and is a consultant to the world-renowned Toronto Center of Applied Genomics. He is also the Genomicist-inResidence for the Autism Hope Alliance.
00:01 Tara Hunkin:
This is My Child Will Thrive. And I'm your host, Tara Hunkin ,Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPS practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, and Mother. I'm thrilled to share with you the latest information, tips, resources, and tools to help you on the path to recovery for your child with ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, or learning disabilities.
My own experiences with my daughter combined with as much training as I can get my hands on, research I can dig into and conferences I can attend have helped me to develop systems and tools for parents like you who feel overwhelmed, trying to help their children. So sit back as I share another great topic to help you on your journey. A quick disclaimer before we get started.
My Child Will Thrive is not a substitute for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. The information provided on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat your child. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before implementing any information or treatments that you have learned about on this podcast. There are many gifted, passionate, and knowledgeable practitioners with hundreds, if not thousands of hours of study and clinical experience available to help guide you.
Part of our goal is to give you the knowledge and tools you need to effectively advocate for your child so that you don't blindly implement each new treatment that comes along. No one knows your child better than you. No one knows your child's history like you do or can better judge what is normal or abnormal for your child. The greatest success in recovery comes from the parent being informed and asking the right questions and making the best decisions for their child in coordination with a team of qualified practitioners in different areas of specialty. Now on with the show. Today's podcast is sponsored by the Autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder Summit. In order to learn more about the summit and to sign up for free, please go to www.mychildwillthrive.com/summit.
2:07 Tara Hunkin:
Hi, everyone. I want to welcome you back to the My Child Will Thrive podcast. I'm really honored to have with me today, Dr. Mansoor Mohammed. He's going to be talking to us today about the importance of vitamin D. And we've heard about how vitamin D is really important for our children's health and development, but we're going to go into it in much more depth than you've ever heard before. And that's why I'm so excited to have him here with me today on the podcast.
Before we get started, I just want to give you a little bit of background about Dr.Mansoor. He's the president and CSO of the DNA Company, which is a leading and innovative provider of comprehensive functional genomics testing, consulting and personalized health solutions. Dr. Mansoor is widely regarded as a pioneer in medical genomics and has been the recipient of multiple academic and industry awards. He's the holder of several patents in the general fields of molecular diagnostics and genomics research, and is one of the most sought after national and international conference speakers in the genre of personalized medicine. Dr. Mansoor maintains an active clinical practice as a genomics consultant to some of the leading executive health clinics in Canada and abroad. And he's also served on the Canadian board of autistic research and as a consultant to the world renowned Toronto Center of Applied Genomics.
He's also the genomics in residence for the Autism Hope Alliance. So we are really grateful that you've been able to take time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today and for all the work that you've done to support this community here in Canada and throughout the world.
3:56 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
It's an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.
4:00 Tara Hunkin:
So before we get started, I just want people to know that we're going to dive right into this and we're going to get into the nitty gritty. I know a lot of parents like to hear about the deep science here, but I'll make sure that there's all sorts of resources that are linked. So if some of this is new to you and you need to listen again, you can listen to the podcast more than once, and we'll make sure that there's other resources just in case this is more than what you've heard before. Because when we start to talk about genomics, some of us do the thing that many of us do if we don't like math, we sort of say, I can't possibly understand this.
The reason why I'm really glad to have Dr. Mansoor here is because he does a really great job of making this very accessible to us parents and the practitioners that are listening as well. So without further ado, I'd like to dive right in and let's start by talking about vitamin D and whether it's misleading to think of vitamin D as just a vitamin and where did that association come from in the first place?
5:09 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
It's an excellent place to start, Tara. And it is misleading to think of vitamin D as just a vitamin. When we think of vitamins, the average individual, the average dedicated individual, the average individual that is taking a proactive move in their health. We think of vitamins as supplements. We think vitamins may be a little bit more nuanced as these nutrients or micronutrients we get from our food.
So in other words, we don't eat vegetables and fruits and we get all vitamins in all circumstances. You also got some of them from meats and seafood and so on and so forth. But the point being, when we think of vitamins, we think of them as these nutrients or micronutrients and that's about where we go. Okay, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to vitamin D.
Now, where, and how does vitamin D get lumped quote-unquote, which is not at all to diminish the role of true vitamins. The reality of vitamin D and why it's even called vitamin D, and in fact, what we call the alphabet vitamins A, B, C, D, the alphabet vitamins, is really one that's your classic historical tale. In other words, there are vitamins that are in fact micronutrients that we derive from foods that we eat,
including the beta carotenoids, vitamin a, including the Bs, the wonderful B9 and B12 that we got from our green leafy vegetables and from meats or fermented products, respectively. So these are true vitamins, vitamin C of course, from citrus fruits. When those vitamins, those alphabet vitamins, were being discovered just about a hundred, a little over a hundred years ago.
And the relevance and the importance of these micronutrients became apparent and naming criteria was set up such as vitamin A, the next vitamin B, then the next vitamin C. So when this factor, this thing that was discovered, that was important for health i.e. without it, and so oftentimes we understand the importance of something when we have its absence.
So it was understood that there was a factor that went absent that was leading to rickets, i.e. bowed bones, the bowing of the bones in children, and that that phenomenon, that physiologic phenomenon could be corrected through the inclusion of certain things in the diet. And at that point, it wasn't clear whether it was purely dietarily, dietary things or environmental things, but the point being, because it was something there was needed for optimal health, that just that point in time, we were discovering the alphabet vitamins, the assumption was made, and it was named vitamin D. Literally just in sequence of the next factor that was discovered to be important for human development, childhood development and for mental health. And of course back then, even though it was known to be important, we had no clue how important it was.
8:12 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
So just as a quick pause there, vitamin D even though it's named vitamin D, once we begin to get into this Tara, what I really want our audience to understand is that it is not a vitamin in its classic definition as privy of the micronutrients, vitamin C, vitamin A other vitamins. So what then is vitamin D? So we'll continue to use the moniker vitamin D simply because that's what it's referred to. What we're going to keep in mind as we go a little further is I understand why it is not in its reality a true vitamin.
8:31 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Okay. So what is vitamin D? Vitamin D is the thing, it's a molecule that we make in our skin upon sunlight exposure and it's just a really cool thing, you know, for those of us, with a little bit of biology, photosynthesis, right? That reaction that happens in plants and the name tells what it is, photosynthesis. So it's using light (photo) to synthesize something that we think is the exclusion i.e. the exclusive nature of plants. When in reality, the human body, miraculously, when our skin is exposed to sunlight, specifically the UVB, B as in Bravo, fraction of sunlight. So we need two things here. We need our skin being exposed, not being covered. We need sunlight, we need the UVB fraction of sunlight. And when that happens, with some variances for skin complexion, white skin complexion, Tara, as an island boy, yourself not quite as much pigmentation as myself, these are going to be things that will affect how much of that UVB is absorbed into the skin.
And when that UVB absorbs into the skin, a remarkable and miraculous reaction occurs in which we actually take care of something else. As many people don't know, we take that ubiquitous molecule cholesterol as that thing that sometimes we think is the big, bad monster cholesterol. Well, in fact, what happens is we take cholesterol, cholesterol molecule, a derivative of cholesterol, and that light, UVB initiates a reaction that turns that cholesterol derivative into vitamin D 3 i.e. the thing we call vitamin D 3. So of course, we make it in our skin. And of course, many of us and many of the parents out there, and we should know this, we also can consume it as a supplement - D3.
10:48 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Now whether the D3 is made in the skin or whether it is consumed orally, alternately, either avenue, it ends up, the D3 ends up in our circulatory IER blood supply, or circulatory system. Now let's just pause there for a moment because it's quite time appropriate looking at the time of June, something that we need to pull out here for our parents, especially all of our parents that are living in the Northern hemispheres, Toronto, Canada, and actually Tara, anything north of what is considered Atlanta, Georgia. So this is a shout-out to any of the families and parents living north of Atlanta, Georgia. Here's the point. If you live north of Atlanta, Georgia, and this is not a genetics thing, this is not a physiology thing. This is a physics thing. This is a astronomy thing, that if you live north of Atlanta, Georgia, between about the months, November to late March, April, between those months, the fraction of sunlight, UVB, there is a need and not UVA, UVB that is needed to initiate a photosynthetic reaction in our skin that fracture of sunlight bounces off the ozone layer of the earth because of the tilt of the earth during those months.
So here's the important point if you live in these Northern latitudes, in those months, even if it was a sunny day, even if it was a warm enough day, even if you were able to expose your legs and arms or something more, you're actually not absorbing near as much UVB into your skin to create that reaction. And of course, no amount of surplus or reserve vitamin D, and we're going to talk a bit more, we're going to continue that story, in the body from the summer months will last you through all of those winter months.
So it's so important that not enough of us, such as us here in Toronto general Canadian boundaries, that we understand that in these months, by the time we roam around from September into October into November, and the days are shorter and UVB is no longer getting passed into the Earth's atmosphere, into our skin, we would have, if we were not replenishing vitamin D sources, we would have utilized all of our innate sources incredibly important. And then the second side note, this is a word to the wise, which is not to say that we don't have to practice safe sun exposure. We do, but what we call full spectrum sun blocks ,things that block both UVA and UVB.
When we go into the sun, we've got to appreciate that that UVB blocker and more and more sunscreens, no longer block UVB because of this fact, but just in case anyone is using full spectrum sunscreens. Again, I do emphasize safe sun exposure, but we've got to understand that if we use these UVB blockers, again, we are prohibiting the thing that the body was naturally meant to do.
14:03 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Okay. So now we got to the point that we've made this, what we're calling vitamin D3. This is a precursor. And so what is the thing that we need to understand here, Tara? This precursor, D3, that you get in your skin or you take orally, is going to be turned into a hormone. Let's emphasize this. You see, Tara, if you tell the average adult, the average individual that is intelligent about the human body, that they've got a thyroid hormone problem, that they're hyperthyroidic, or that they've got an estrogen hormone problem, or that they've got an insulin problem, that would immediately bring a certain degree of alertness. I've got to address that. That's a hormonal problem. I've got to address this.
Well, let's make it clear that what we were talking about to say here regarding vitamin D, the hormone, it is a hormone with all of the importance, with all of the characteristics, as important as insulin, estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormones, growth hormone. It is a hormone. And, you know, there are many well-meaning health writers, Tara, that talk about it, as you know, you'll hear things that it's a precursor, it's a prohormone.
D3 is the precursor prohormone. What happens next is that the human body will turn this into a bonafide hormone. And then we'll talk about what the hormones do. Why is this so important and why any parents interested in the optimal health of their children would want to know about this and be sure that this has been optimized.
And at this juncture, Tara, before we go any further, I can't help but then also point out the side indication, probably wrong choice of words. The concern that I have that vitamin D is a blood test, used to be covered through our medical health coverage here in Ontario, in OHIP. In some years now it's been removed from OHIP coverage. In other words, it's not painful.
It doesn't mean that we can't get it.It just means that we're going to have to pay a few bucks for it. But here's the point. Somehow we sometimes on that, and even our clinicians are led to believe well, because vitamin D is no longer covered by our insurance, it means it's not important.
16:25 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
So you see what happened there? Here's the thing that we're going to talk about that's so important. Someone at the level of costs and benefits and ratios and financing made a decision that this thing, not testing for vitamin D levels, was no longer covered. And just because of that, there's been the psychological association that because it's no longer covered, ipso fact-so, it means it's not important. Again, audience, nothing could be further from the truth.
Why it's not covered? That's the conversation, not for me to have, but let me, by the end of this emphasize just because it's not covered by no means, make it not important. So now we come back to that D3. We've made it in the skin and we're starting to make a bit of it in the sunlight that we're getting, or we've been taking it orally, D3. It gets into the gut, gets into the bloodstream.
Now what happens? That D3 is a fat soluble molecule and blood is a water-based medium. So how do you get fat soluble things to be dissolved and transported to any water based medium? You put it in a taxi cab. This is the remarkable way that the body that's around us, the blood, our major circulatory system, the highways of the body transport water-soluble things. And if the thing happened to be fat soluble, the body gets around this by encompassing that fat-soluble thing in a taxicab shell and matrix. And so the transporter of of D3 and the other D3 derivatives, including the hormonal vitamin D that we're going to talk about, is transported by a molecule by a transporter known as vitamin D binding protein. And you will understand the importance of each of these things that I'm pulling out here shortly.
So we've got this taxicab of vitamin D and its derivatives known as vitamin D binding proteins. So the vitamin D binding protein absorbs the D3 from the skin circulation in the skin, or from the gut, pulls it into the bloodstream, takes it to the liver. And it is in the liver that a special enzyme CYP 2R1 (CYP two river one.) This enzyme converts D3 into its first. It's intermediate 25 hydroxy Vitamin D or 25 hydroxycalciferol. These are Simmons. Now, again, I'm going to call this out for what's going to come next.
I want to alert everyone that when if and when you do go to the doctor and if and when you do vitamin D tests, blood tests, urine tests, often, what is tested is your 25 25 hydroxycalciferol that's made in the liver. And that's important. That's a good indicator, but what you do not know now next is that that is not a complete or full indicator of what is happening in your body.
19:30 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Why? Because the 25 hydroxy vitamin D 25 25 hydroxycalciferol. So from here on forth I'm just going to use the vitamin D as a simpler way of saying it - 25 hydroxy vitamin D, is simply a precursor. It's actually not doing anything in the body. Except having been made in the liver by the CYP 2R1 enzyme, from the D3 from the skin or your supplement, now vitamin D binding protein, the same taxicab that took the D3 to deliver picks back up the 25 hydroxy vitamin D from the liver, takes it to the kidney wherein another enzyme, another really important enzyme, CYP27B1 assistant to CYP2R1, another enzyme in the liver finishes the activation of the vitamin D.
Converts it from 25 hydroxy vitamin D to 1 25 dihydroxy vitamin D. That is your hormone. That is the hormone in all of its glory, like testosterone, estrogen, insulin. So now let's pause for a moment - your kidney and the tablets of the kidney have because now, through that enzymatic reaction, we've made this hormone, the kidney is going to secrete. Yes, the kidney secretes a hormone into the bloodstream. 125 dihydroxycalciferol, which yes is fat soluble, which yes is picked back up by a vitamin D binding protein. And now it circulates and it's delivered to all of the salts of the body, including radically important, the neural cells of the body and so on and so forth.
20:38 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
So now let's just pause for a moment. Hormones - so we've now entered. We established a few physiologic things and established the precedent that vitamin D it's just a misnomer.
If you want to call the D3 a vitamin, whether it is then activated into a hormone. So how do hormones work? What are hormones? How do they work? And why are they so important? As we associate with insulin and thyroid hormone and testosterone and estrogen. Now we have to put vitamin D, the 125 dihydroxycalciferol, everyone at the spores. If you choose to sign off don't, but if you choose to sign off at this point, you now understand 125 dihydroxycalciferol is a hormone one that you wouldn't want to meddle with. Just as much as you wouldn't want to be deficient in the other hormones that I've mentioned.
22:06 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
So what are hormones? Hormones are frequently defined as factors. They are molecules, things that are made, and they are made in one part of the body.
This is the classic biology textbook definition of a hormone. It is made in one part of the body, enters the bloodstream, but affects the entire body. So we made thyroid hormones and this little butterfly organ here, enters the body, and as we know how important that is, we make our estrogen our testosterone, ovaries, testes, depending on sex and so on and so forth.
So kidneys here act as the organ producing the vitamin D hormone. It enters into the bloodstream, and it has its impact, which brings us to the very quick point. What, and how do hormones, how does it impact the body? How does testosterone cause the androgenization, the creation of that pubescent male and female creatures, because girls, we also produce testosterone when you have your first period and become pubescent. Boys, we also produce estrogens when biologically speaking.
23:17 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Okay. We produce both estrogens and androgens. So it's a very quick example. How do these hormones, androgens, testosterone, and estrogen, it has such an obvious impact on the body. How does it do this? Well, here's the second feature of hormones. The first feature is produced in the organ, enters into the bloodstream, and even though it was produced in one part of the body, the first feature of the hormone, is that it impacts the entire body because it enters into the blood stream.
The second feature of a hormone is all hormones have their respective receptors. Receptors are like the docking stations, think Star Trek. It's the docking station that the hormone is circulating in the bloodstream and all cells will have their respective receptors. So cells have androgen receptors that pick up testosterone, cells have estrogen receptors that pick up estrogens, insulin receptors, and so on. Cells have vitamin D receptors.
So when that 125 dihydroxycalciferol is in the bloodstream circulating in its taxicab, vitamin D binding protein, it takes it to the cell, it opens up the garage door in the cell, the docking station, it enters the vitamin D 125 dihydroxycalciferol, into the cell wherein it binds the receptor. That's the same as all hormones. Now the third feature of all hormones. So how did the hormone testosterone cause that muscle definition, that facial hair?
How did the estrogens create those curves in the initial signs of young womanhood in the female receptance and so on and so forth? When a hormone binds its receptor, the second feature of hormones, it enters into the nucleus. It enters into the vault, the nucleus of ourselves, wherein all of our genes, all 22,000 genes and hormones, but their receptors, that complex known as the hormone receptor complex, actually is the thing that binds to our DNA at special places in our genetic makeup and turns on genes of relevance. So now let's pause there. You see Tara, of our 22,000 genes that make up our human genetic operating manual, that tells the body how to do all of the wonderful jobs that it needs to do.
Subsets of genes are recognized by these hormone hormone receptor complexes, and those subsets of genes get turned on when the hormone hormone receptor complex enters the nucleus. Very quick example. So when you eat something that is carby, a starch, rice, potato, or dessert sugar, when you eat something that ultimately raises sugar in the bloodstream, the body produces, the pancreas produces insulin. The insulin binds to the insulin receptor.
This insulin insulin receptor goes into your DNA, into your nucleus, and guess what genes, insulin insulin receptor, are turning on? They're turning on unsurprisingly, all of the genes, all of the mechanisms, responsible for sugar metabolism. They're turning on all of the genes in your body and your cells needed to have turned on in order to burn sugar and gain energy. As a quick note, that's the first thing insulin insulin receptor does.
27:09 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
But if you continue to keep too much insulin in your body, i.e. because you eating too much sugars or because you're insulin resistant, now insulin insulin receptor start turning, starts to turn on genes that cause inflammation in your body, which is why that is a pro inflammatory thing when we consume too much sugars. And there's a reason that I mentioned what I just did.
So now we come back to vitamin D, Tara. So we think, and we're led to believe, let's summarize, all vitamin D is a vitamin. It's responsible for bone development and teeth and after all my child has stopped growing, they're post pubescent. So their bones are fine and we don't need vitamin D anymore. And guess, OHIP no longer covers it, so that really means that it's not important.
Well, of the 22,000 genes and our genetic library, in our operating manual, one tenth, 2,200 genes and counting are turned on, meaning they are operationalized. Meaning one tenth of our operating manual cannot do its job efficiently unless vitamin D and vitamin D receptor enters into the nucleus and turns on those genes. One tenth of our operating manual! Not just the parts of the operating manual responsible for healthy teeth or healthy bones, calcification of our bones.
The majority of our genes responsible for how our body deals with inflammation. We just heard that when insulin and its insulin receptor turns on genes for too long, it starts to turn on the genes that cause inflammation. Well, guess what vitamin D does? Vitamin D 125 dihydroxycalciferol and its receptor turn those genes off. It takes your body from a pro inflammatory state to a less inflammatory state.
Of the genes that vitamin D and its receptor turn on, the genes involved in how we respond are either the operations that our cells need to respond to viral infections. Of the genes involved are the genes of neurologic mapping and development. So when that beautiful brain is still being met, the whole beautiful network of signaling the proper mapping, the proper electrician wiring of the brain, the genes that direct the wiring of the brain requires the vitamin D vitamin D receptor to turn on those genes.
Something as simple as the way the genes that are required for all the prefrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure center of the brain, the part of the brain, the neurons in the brain that respond to dopamine that allows us to feel elated, but not just elated, allows us to focus because part of attention is that you've got to enjoy. You've got some degree of being captured by something. It's a dopaminergic response.
30:30 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Well, for that part of your brain to even respond to dopamine, such that you can be engaged, that part of the brain and its operations are under the control of other things, but hugely under the control of 125 dihydroxycalciferol and its receptor. So let's quickly pause there and summarize. Nothing can be further from the truth. This is not a vitamin and it's classic micronutrient.
It is a hormone. And if you can, well, here is your barometer - listeners, parents. If your barometer is you understand that your doctor told you are hypothyrodic, you're not producing enough thyroid hormone or mums out there, your doctor tells you, you are entering into menopause because now your estrogen levels are really nosediving. Or your endocrinologist tells you, you know, you're at risk for type two diabetes because you're not producing enough insulin or your body isn't responding to that insulin. If all of those things elicit in you a response that says, oh my goodness, I have to address this.
Please understand that you should have the exact response if you hear that your vitamin D levels are too low, because you are hearing that an all important hormone with its myriad of impacts on the body, i.e. it's myriad of impacts through 2,200 and counting genes, one tenth of the human genome, including the genes that are responsible for how your body responds to your sex hormones! Fathers, men, teenage boys out there and girls, if you don't have enough vitamin D, your body isn't going to respond to your sex hormones responsible for that adolescent growth and development. Vitamin D.
32:23 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
So Tara, I think we can pause there now. I hope we've elicited something as to the importance. Now let's quickly cover, very quickly two minutes, the genetics of this. So what did we highlight? We highlighted that there is a taxicab, vitamin D binding protein, that has to transport the D3 that you made in the skin or the D3 that you ingested orally to the liver for it to be first activated it's intermediate.
The vitamin D binding protein is the product of the vitamin D binding protein gene. The VDBP comes into versions. A version that is really good, really efficient, at transporting vitamin D - that's your Greyhound bus, you know, your multiple-seated bus that can transport a lot of vitamin D. Or there's a two-seater tuk tuk version of this gene. The transporter, the vitamin D binding protein, when it produces, isn't really efficient at transporting the vitamin D. And depending on which of these two versions you have, you now know something that is a radically important and potentially radically different from the person next to you, which is, if I take my vitamin D supplement, if I make my vitamin D through sunlight exposure, am I even transporting it efficiently? Because remember, that D3 is fat-soluble.
If it is not bound by its transporter, it's stability in the bloodstream is not very good at all, and it's not going to reach it's intended target, the liver. So you've got what we test for we'll talk a little bit about testing later on. We look at the VDBP binding protein, but we're not just looking at it as a sort of data point.
We're looking at it because it tells the story of your entire vitamin D system. Now you get to the liver. We mentioned that there's a CYP2R1 gene - that gene produces the enzyme that activates the vitamin D. Well guess what, Tara, that gene comes in two versions. A version that is very efficient at activating the D3 dihydroxycalciferol and the version that's not very efficient.
Can you imagine if you had the load carrying capacity vitamin D binding protein and the inefficient CYP2R1 and you happen to say, well, you know, nobody told me vitamin D is important and OHIP doesn't cover it so it's definitely not important. So I don't take vitamin D and I don't give it to my children in December, January, February. And those children are going through radically important points in their development, the prepubescent, protection from viral infections, something that's very important in our times that we live in. Because we just didn't think it to be important.
Okay. Versus the person who has the very efficient vitamin D binding protein and the very efficient CYP2R1 gene. We continue further. When the activated 125 dihydroxycalciferol got into the cell, remember that hormone can do nothing. Hormones can accomplish nothing in the human body until they bind to their receptors.
And the vitamin D receptor, the VDR, is the product of yet another gene. And guess what? The VDR gene comes into versions - a version that has a strong affinity for its thing, it's vitamin D 125 dihydroxycalciferol and a version that is not very high capacity binder. So what we do in this, Tara, is what is called intelligent, functional genomics. It's not about genomics to get these little data points, but rather it's genomics that explains how the human body works. Where is your child? Where are you?
36:24 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
I'm a Caribbean mut, as is somewhat obvious, right? And I'm too many ethnic backgrounds, generally speaking, my south Asian ethnic background, sneaks through a little bit more than my other backgrounds. And so I come from a people that are designed to live in equatorial climates.
I come from a people that are designed to be exposed to the sun 365 days a year, six to eight hours a day. So it is not surprising at all that my vitamin D binding protein gene is not very efficient. It's not surprising at all that my vitamin D receptor gene is not very efficient - why?
Because in my native environment, I make so much of the precursors, so much of the D3, that my body is never at want for the precursor. So just because the other downstream operations are less efficient, I'm still relatively okay. But you take me from my traditional ancestral home and I come to this beautiful country, Canada, the home of my parents, the home that is the only home that I know, but now I have left my genetic heritage lands and for four months of the year, I'm not exposed to the sun unless I traveled south. And my genes were not designed as Northern Europeans or people indigenous Northern latitudes. So I am completely, ill-equipped, people like myself and people listening that have similar ethnic backgrounds, not just colored individuals.
You can have individuals and Tara is nodding because she knows well this, you can have someone that is of Caucasian descent. And I always joke with those clients, I'm like, Hmm, where did that forefather come from? In other words, there are many Caucasian individuals that have a suboptimal vitamin D receptor, or that have a suboptimal vitamin D binding protein, or that have a suboptimal CYP2R1.
And the only way that you're going to know this, which is the only way that you're going to know, are you actually taking sufficient levels of vitamin D, are you taking it to optimal times in the day, is by understanding this functional manual. And I close with just one more point, even when someone becomes aware of the importance of vitamin D and its importance as a precursor to hormones, how many of us, Tara, understand that for us to optimally benefit from our vitamin D supplementation, which we should be taking in our northern winters, how many of us are aware that we absolutely need magnesium and boron? Both of those minerals are needed as co-factors for the body to actually meet heals.
39:10 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
You know those enzymes, the one in the liver, the one in the kidney, that is responsible for activating the D3 hormone? Those enzymes are dependent on magnesium to make the conversion from the precursor to the hormone, magnesium. Magnesium, Tara, that is something that has become woefully limited because of the quality of our vegetables and our soil. Many health Canada had a study many years ago, that many Canadians are at risk of low magnesium levels, which you can determine by your it's called an RBC magnesium, red blood cell magnesium. And finally boron is needed to help stabilize that vitamin D in the bloodstream so that it can get to the kidney, so that it can get into the bloodstream, so that it can get into our cells.
So if we're taking vitamin D, Bravo. If we're taking the right levels of it, double Bravo. But if you're not taking it with your magnesium, adequately with your boron, or at least getting those things in your diet adequately, you're still not completing the puzzle. This is the wonder of vitamin D. This is the wonderment of functional genomics. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope we've created something that spurs an interest in your audience, Tara.
40:32 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. I mean, first of all, I can't think of anybody better to walk everybody through that in that way. It's a lot to take in, but I think what's really important is I'm going to be linking to a number of different articles and research studies, just to sort of circle back to our kids and what they're dealing with.
And we see, and I was talking to Dr. Mansoor about this before we started recording today, we see a lot of the research that we talk about autism as a neuro immune condition. We talk about ADHD in terms of different, there's studies around deficiency, specifically in vitamin D, which makes complete sense when you explain about the impact on the receptors for dopamine.
So it all comes together when you talk about this and why it was so important to have this conversation today and understand those connections between all the systems in the body, because it is a hormone that we're dealing with and the impact is pervasive. So I hope that at minimum, that everybody takes away that, and that we can tie that back, obviously to what your kids are challenging.
What the great thing about this is that when you understand what is specific to your child, in terms of what Dr. Mansoor was talking about their ability, like how much vitamin D they need and their ability to convert it and all of those things. So which you can find out that piece of the puzzle through functional genomic testing, which I think is incredibly important because I think the one thing we've learned about these kids is every kid is different and that's why no one thing works for any one child, there's no silver bullet.
But when you start looking at it from a personalized medicine standpoint, which functional genomics is the foundation of that, it really can be impactful in terms of starting to get through the fog of where do I go next and what should I be focused on right now? So one of the reasons why I wanted Dr. Manoor on, aside from educating us on all of this is because Dr. Mansoor has his company, the DNA Company, has a service that I think is really fantastic for families like ours to get this information, but also then to interpret this information and help you come out on the other side with an actual steps to take, and you can do that with your practitioner, one of the clinicians that are trained in their reports and how this all works.
43:12 Tara Hunkin:
So actually, can you just explain that process with the DNA Company? So if someone was to engage your company, to help them with functional genomics, what does that look like for Them?
43:24 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
So the first thing, and thank you again, Tara, and this is, you know, never for our audience to make this topic of personalization. I speak about this subject matters purely academically, independent of our testing. And so everything I've said to you is mirrored or is embedded in proper academic published research. And then of course we do offer at least the ability to test what we've just spoken of, which is what we do as a company. And we only test for those things. So the first of the things is when we test for something, we're not testing for genes as a data brown, just to start collecting genetic information.
We're testing for things that are A) fully published and vetted in the scientific literature for humans, not just animal class, what is its impact in humans? This is the first differentiation. When you ask them what we do, the genes that we test for must meet the criteria that they explain human behavior. It's not just a data point. That must be even.
We must, when we test for that gene, determine whether you have whatever version of that gene, for it to be included in what we test for, it must be something that is interpretable, that explains something important about the human body. This is the first, the second is that it's a completely noninvasive, this is a saliva-based test.
And we have two kid options there. The more routine, that's a saliva kit based on to get the expression, it's a spit tube. You literally going to be opening up a cup, spitting in the tube, literally just a little, the type of thing that you get from just a normal spit and close that tube, and there's a little bit of special solution and off you go.
Once you've given your sample, really important, it's extremely stable. So once you have put your sample into the tube, close the tube, it can actually stay for weeks, months, completely stable. The other kit that we have as well, we began to learn with our audiences sometimes with either younger children or children with developmental concerns that couldn't spit on demand, is that we've got a swab kit.
So that rather than having them spit, we swabbed it in their cheek and we can use that as well. So non-invasive. Then the sample is extracted. We get the DNA from your saliva, because by the way, in your saliva has your DNA. Then we get all of the data that we want. Those genes that we need testing, and here, Tara, is something really worth pointing out.
45:47 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
Number one, by the way, as a give back to your community, Tara, I'm sure you can let your community know, we give a discount really because this is a passion project for us as a company for the children. So we have discount to your community that we get. Number one, number two, we're extremely proud of working with two giants in the industry.
Mr. Dave Asprey, for many of our parents and health individuals out there, he is in the top 1% of downloaded podcasts. And then the top 1% of 1% of health podcasts. He has spent, this was a gentleman, Silicon Valley gurus made all the money one can make, had health concerns, and realize that we need to take a more proactive step.
He has become an advocate of human health. He has, through millions upon millions of funding, has curated nutrition needs and so on and so forth. We are incredibly jazzed and he's jazzed to work with us. He now, along with myself, we are advisors to the company myself, as the geneticist and him as the insight of the leagues and leagues of clinical studies and trials that he overlooks to give us the best nutrient options.
That's like something that he really focuses is what are the best nutrients? What are the best versions of the nutrients? What are the best sources of nutrients? So we use that knowledge there. And then most recently, this is something that for me, was one of the proudest moments in our company. The third advisor that makes up our scientific core group, myself, Dave Aspery, is Dr. BJ Fogg.
And for those of you out there, Dr. BJ Fogg is one of the most storied, tenured professors at Stanford University. And he is the father of what is called behavioral human behavioral sciences. He literally writes and wrote the book literally and figuratively on understanding the drivers of human behavior so much so that many of his class graduates are the CEOs in Silicon Valley that goes on to form the companies like LinkedIn and Instagram and so on and so forth. And he is year after year voted as the top professor in one of the most students go to class and it changes their world view. It inspires them - that's Dr. BJ Fogg.
BJ, Dr. Fogg, does not work lightly with industry because of his story, academic position. We are thrilled that he has come on board as the third in our triad of scientific advisors. So we've got the genetics, we've got the consumer viewpoint of what is the, what are the best options? The therapeutics, the nutraceuticals. And what Dr. BJ Fogg contributes is he's helped us revamp all of our reports through the lenses of human behavior so that the information. I can go on, this is my passion. I probably bore the lights out of anyone in the audience and I'll still be bright-eyed talking about genetics, but BJ takes this information and he helped us create our reports so that they're navigatable, they're interpretable, they're actually a joy to read.
My original reports five years ago, they're heavy with the science reports. And I was like, that's the way I want them. But most parents would sort of look at them and go, oh my God, that so much, I need someone to unpack this for me. Dr. BJ Fogg has now helped us transform our reports. So in conclusion, Tara, it's a simple sample, it's non-invasive and then what you get from it, usually once your sample reaches us in, to be safe, four weeks, three to four weeks, your results are ready. Your reports are created, your reports are sent back to you. They are now readable, they're accessible.
49:44 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
And then two things happen. You have them, you have them in that engageable manner, you can share them with your clinician, and/or you can access our clinicians for even deeper dials.
But the very last thing, Tara, and this is something I hope I'm allowed to say. We're also now getting to the point where we're creating an entire ecosystem, the apps that parents can now use to look at live updates. Once they got a result, more data that comes out little, little quick tips, that whole system we're really putting our minds, and we're putting ourselves in the consumers position, asking how and what does the want from this to really optimize their health through the genomics and rebuilding of that ecosystem. So that's what we have, Tara.
50:34 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah, That's wonderful because there is, there are so many developments that will continue to come up because the research continues and to be able to have access to, because obviously you have the raw data there, as you said, you only present and interpret the data that, you know has the science and the research behind it. And as that research develops, getting that additional information. Dr. BJ Fogg is phenomenal in terms of the work that he does. And again, helping us with behavior change associated with that, which is a lot of this has to, has to do with that.
So it's really spectacular that he's involved in creating, helping formulate the reports in terms of it being very actionable from the parents and for their kids and for themselves. So it is really exciting what you guys are doing. And I want everyone to know that they've extended. The DNA Company and Dr. Mansoor have extended a $50 discount on their testing to the My Child Will Thrive community. There'll be links on the in the show notes about how to get to that. And you can always reach out to our team too, if you have any questions about that.
But I want to thank you so much for taking the time with us today, to walk through all of these things. But also, as I said, at the beginning of the interview, the work that you do with the autism community and continue to do, we're very grateful for that because it is through the work that people like you do, that we're going to continue to make progress in terms of how to help our kids thrive, even when they start out with a setback, like a diagnosis of autism.
52:23 Dr. Mansoor Mohammed:
It's an absolute honor, Tara. For me, nothing speaks for humanity like just watch it watching a child and just watching the beauty, the innocence of a child, and then that connection between the child and the parent is just that's what being human is based on in my opinion. And so anything that affects that connection, anything that affects the development of our beautiful children and affects that bond that can be made is something that I take extremely seriously. I'm a father of three beautiful children. And so we're doing this as, this is not just science for us. It's a passion for us. And thank you so very much for having me on your podcast.
53:03 Tara Hunkin:
It's my great pleasure. Thanks again for being here with us. So that's a wrap. Thanks for joining me this week on My Child Will Thrive. I'm so passionate about giving you the tools and information. You need to help your child recover. And as they say, it takes a village, so join us in the, My Child Will Thrive village Facebook group, where you can meet like-minded parents and stay up to date on everything we have going on at My Child Will Thrive. This is Tara Hunkin, and I'll catch you on the next podcast or over at mychildwillthrive.com.
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