Did you know there is a “Viking” gene?

A strong link between hemochromatosis and Viking ancestry

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a deadly but treatable disease, found predominantly in individuals of European descent.

The Common Mutation

One genetic variation most commonly associated with hemochromatosis is the C282Y mutation in the HFE gene. Almost 85 to 90% of people who are clinically affected with hemochromatosis test positive for this mutation.

This strong genetic association, and the striking prevalence of this mutation in people of European ancestry, has led researchers to investigate the origin and spread of the C282Y mutation.

An Interesting Spread

Population studies show a very interesting and distinct distribution pattern for the C282Y mutation across Europe. 

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Regions in Northern Europe that were established Viking homelands and settlements have the highest frequencies (5.1-9.1%) of this mutation. The coastal populations within each of these areas typically have the highest C282Y allele frequencies.


The allele frequencies are lower at 3.1-4.8% in central Europe, and significantly lower (0-3.1%) in regions of Europe that the Vikings did not conquer or inhabit for extended periods (including the Mediterranean and Russia).

The “Viking Hypothesis”

Based on these C282Y allele frequency studies, it’s estimated that the C282Y mutation appeared approximately 60-70 generations ago.

Assuming that each generation is 20 to 25 years, that would place the origin of this mutation to approximately 1200 to 1750 years ago, with subsequent rapid spread along the coastline of Europe, and spreading from Northern and Western Europe.

The timing and pattern of spread of this mutation has a very close correlation to the migration of Vikings. Hence, the development of “Viking hypothesis”. This hypothesis proposes that the C282Y mutation first occurred in a Viking and spread via his descendants throughout Europe as the Vikings conquered and settled in different areas.

Are You At Risk?

Does your Viking ancestry put you at risk of hemochromatosis. Find out if you are at risk with the DNA Hemochromatosis Test.

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