Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] is the hallmark for determining vitamin D status. Serum parathyroid hormone [PTH] increases progressively when 25(OH)D falls below 75 nmol/l. Concentrations of 25(OH)D below 50 nmol/l or even below 25 nmol/l are frequently observed in various population groups throughout the world. This paper highlights the relationship of vitamin D insufficiency with cardiovascular disease and non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, two diseases that account for up to 50% of all deaths in western countries. There is evidence from patients with end-stage renal disease that high PTH concentrations are causally related to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Activated vitamin D is able to increase survival in this patient group significantly. Moreover, already slightly enhanced PTH concentrations are associated with ventricular hypertrophy and coronary heart disease in the general population. Experimental studies have demonstrated that a lack of vitamin D action leads to hypertension in mice. Some intervention trials have also shown that vitamin D can reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients. In young and elderly adults, serum 25(OH)D is inversely correlated with blood glucose concentrations and insulin resistance. Sun-deprived lifestyle, resulting in low cutaneous vitamin D synthesis, is the major factor for an insufficient vitamin D status. Unfortunately, vitamin D content of most foods is negligible. Moreover, fortified foods and over-the-counter supplements usually contain inadequate amounts of vitamin D to increase serum 25(OH)D to 75 nmol/l. As a consequence, legislation has to be changed to allow higher amounts of vitamin D in fortified foods and supplements.