Genes, Politics, and Vitamin D

There is now a large and well-established literature in political science that examines the relationship between genes (as well as other biological aspects) and a variety of political attitudes, behaviour, and phenomena. In their classic article on whether political orientations are genetically transmitted, Alford, Funk, and Hibbing argue:

We test the possibility that political attitudes and behaviors 
are the result of both environmental and genetic factors. 
Employing standard methodological approaches in behavioral 
genetics—specifically, comparisons of the differential 
orrelations of the attitudes of monozygotic twins and dizygotic 
twins—we analyze data drawn from a large sample of twins in the 
United States, supplemented with findings from twins in Australia. 
The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in 
shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role 
in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer 
distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes. 
We conclude by urging political scientists to incorporate genetic 
influences, specifically interactions between genetic heritability 
and social environment, into models of political attitude formation.

Recently, I’ve been following some research on the importance of Vitamin D, specifically as it relates to breast-fed infants (since we have a new 5 month year old son), but also to adults more generally.  Some of the research suggests that Vitamin D has a powerful effect on our health:

The researchers found 2776 binding sites for the vitamin D 
receptor along the length of the genome. These were unusually 
concentrated near a number of genes associated with susceptibility 
to autoimmune conditions such as MS, Crohn's disease, systemic 
lupus erythematosus (or 'lupus') and rheumatoid arthritis, and 
to cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and colorectal 
They also showed that vitamin D had a significant effect on the 
activity of 229 genes, including IRF8, previously associated 
with MS, and PTPN2, associated with Crohn's disease and 
type 1 diabetes.
"Our study shows quite dramatically the wide-ranging influence 
that vitamin D exerts over our health," says Dr Andreas Heger from 
the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford, one of the lead 
authors of the study.

These findings make me wonder: Does Vitamin D also have a strong effect on the genes that affect political behaviour? If so, what kinds of political behaviour effects should we expect from different Vitamin D levels in human beings?


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  1. Pingback: Genes, Politics, and Epigenetics: wonderfully messy complexity | Opinion - Policy Nexus

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