Does vitamin D make the world go 'round'?

Breastfeed Med. 2008 Dec;3(4):239-50. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2008.9984.


Abstract Vitamin D has emerged from obscurity, and its effects on various organ systems throughout the body down to the cellular level are being discovered. What was once thought to be a simple hormone affecting only bone and calcium metabolism has shifted. We no longer see vitamin D as a "vitamin" important only in childhood, but as a complex hormone that is involved not only in calcium homeostasis but also in the integrity of the innate immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to inflammatory and long-latency diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, diabetes, and various cancers, to name a few. In this review, we trace how we came to view vitamin D and how that view led to one of the largest epidemics of nutrient deficiency beginning in the late 20(th) century. We then discuss the needs of vitamin D in the context of the breastfeeding mother and her infant and child, why breastfed infants are particularly at risk, and what to do about it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / analysis
  • Vitamin D / immunology*
  • Vitamin D / physiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / immunology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control*


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium