Telomeres are caps at the end of each strand of DNA. They protect our chromosomes, the structures that contain most our DNA. Without telomeres, DNA becomes damaged, leading to dysfunctional cells.
Since DNA is responsible for every cell in our body, telomeres play a vital role in our health. As we age, our cells must replenish by undergoing cell division. Telomeres become shorter each time this occurs. Eventually, telomeres become too short to serve as protection, causing cells to age and stop functioning properly.
Nearly 3000 genes contain vitamin D receptors, of which 229 genes have been shown to directly affect gene expression, meaning that vitamin D helps regulate cell division. Therefore, researchers have begun hypothesizing that vitamin D may help prevent the shortening of telomeres through its regulatory role in cell division.