Vitamin D has been implicated in the pathophysiology of extraskeletal conditions such as hypertension, kidney disease, and diabetes via its ability to negatively regulate the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). This article reviews the evidence supporting a link between vitamin D and the RAS in these conditions, with specific emphasis on translational observations and their limitations. A literature review of animal and human studies evaluating the role of vitamin D in hypertension, kidney disease, and diabetes was performed. Excess activity of the RAS has been implicated in the pathogenesis of hypertension, chronic kidney disease, decreased insulin secretion, and insulin resistance. Animal studies provide strong support for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3)-mediated downregulation of renin expression and RAS activity via its interaction with the vitamin D receptor. Furthermore, the activity of vitamin D metabolites in animals is associated with reductions in blood pressure, proteinuria and renal injury, and with improved β-cell function. Many observational, and a few interventional, studies in humans have supported these findings; however, there is a lack of well-designed prospective human interventional studies to definitively assess clinical outcomes. There is a need for more well-designed prospective interventional studies to validate this hypothesis in human clinical outcomes.
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