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Mol Aspects Med. 2008 Dec;29(6):361-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2008.08.008. Epub 2008 Sep 2.

The vitamin D deficiency pandemic and consequences for nonskeletal health: mechanisms of action.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes, Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.


Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is important for childhood bone health. Over the past two decades, it is now recognized that vitamin D not only is important for calcium metabolism and maintenance of bone health throughout life, but also plays an important role in reducing risk of many chronic diseases including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, deadly cancers, heart disease and infectious diseases. How vitamin D is able to play such an important role in health is based on observation that all tissues and cells in the body have a vitamin D receptor, and, thus, respond to its active form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. However, this did not explain how living at higher latitudes and being at risk of vitamin D deficiency increased risk of these deadly diseases since it was also known that the 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels are normal or even elevated when a person is vitamin D insufficient. Moreover, increased intake of vitamin D or exposure to more sunlight will not induce the kidneys to produce more 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. The revelation that the colon, breast, prostate, macrophages and skin among other organs have the enzymatic machinery to produce 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D provides further insight as to how vitamin D plays such an essential role for overall health and well being. This review will put into perspective many of the new biologic actions of vitamin D and on how 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is able to regulate directly or indirectly more than 200 different genes that are responsible for a wide variety of biologic processes.

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