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Women residing in northern latitudes - who often receive less naturally sunlight and commonly suffer from vitamin D deficiencies - are at a significantly increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a recent study.
For the research, investigators from the Boston University School of Public Health analyzed the pertinent medical and personal data of 461 women with RA and compared their information to more than 9,000 healthy female respondents.
Lead author Verónica Vieira, associate professor of environmental health at the university, and her colleagues were surprised to find that women living in the northeastern U.S. were much more likely to suffer from the autoimmune disease than were those with greater access to natural sunlight, a main source of vitamin D.
"A geographic association with northern latitudes has also been observed for multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease, other autoimmune diseases that may be mediated by reduced vitamin D from decreased solar exposure and the immune effects of vitamin D deficiency," said the authors.
Separate studies have also indicated that vitamin D may provide protection from high blood pressure and heart disease.
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