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Front Physiol. 2014 Jul 11;5:248. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00248. eCollection 2014.

Vitamin D: a critical and essential micronutrient for human health.

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1
Human Nutrition and Health (IB, AF, FFR), and Nutrition Science & Advocacy (PW, ME), DSM Nutritional Products Ltd. Basel, Switzerland.

Abstract

Vitamin D is a micronutrient that is needed for optimal health throughout the whole life. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) can be either synthesized in the human skin upon exposure to the UV light of the sun, or it is obtained from the diet. If the photoconversion in the skin due to reduced sun exposure (e.g., in wintertime) is insufficient, intake of adequate vitamin D from the diet is essential to health. Severe vitamin D deficiency can lead to a multitude of avoidable illnesses; among them are well-known bone diseases like osteoporosis, a number of autoimmune diseases, many different cancers, and some cardiovascular diseases like hypertension are being discussed. Vitamin D is found naturally in only very few foods. Foods containing vitamin D include some fatty fish, fish liver oils, and eggs from hens that have been fed vitamin D and some fortified foods in countries with respective regulations. Based on geographic location or food availability adequate vitamin D intake might not be sufficient on a global scale. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) has collected the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D plasma levels in populations of different countries using published data and developed a global vitamin D map. This map illustrates the parts of the world, where vitamin D did not reach adequate 25-hydroxyvitamin D plasma levels: 6.7% of the papers report 25-hydroxyvitamin D plasma levels below 25 nmol/L, which indicates vitamin D deficiency, 37.3% are below 50 nmol/Land only 11.9% found 25-hydroxyvitamin D plasma levels above 75 nmol/L target as suggested by vitamin D experts. The vitamin D map is adding further evidence to the vitamin D insufficiency pandemic debate, which is also an issue in the developed world. Besides malnutrition, a condition where the diet does not match to provide the adequate levels of nutrients including micronutrients for growth and maintenance, we obviously have a situation where enough nutrients were consumed, but lacked to reach sufficient vitamin D micronutrient levels. The latter situation is known as hidden hunger. The inadequate vitamin D status impacts on health care costs, which in turn could result in significant savings, if corrected. Since little is known about the effects on the molecular level that accompany the pandemic like epigenetic imprinting, the insufficiency-triggered gene regulations or the genetic background influence on the body to maintain metabolic resilience, future research will be needed. The nutrition community is highly interested in the molecular mechanism that underlies the vitamin D insufficiency caused effect. In recent years, novel large scale technologies have become available that allow the simultaneous acquisition of transcriptome, epigenome, proteome, or metabolome data in cells of organs. These important methods are now used for nutritional approaches summarized in emerging scientific fields of nutrigenomics, nutrigenetics, or nutriepigenetics. It is believed that with the help of these novel concepts further understanding can be generated to develop future sustainable nutrition solutions to safeguard nutrition security.

KEYWORDS:

25-hydroxyvitamin D; hidden hunger; micronutrients; nutrigenomics; nutrition; nutrition security; nutritional pathways; vitamin D

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