Vitamin D: health panacea or false prophet?

Nutrition. 2013 Jan;29(1):37-41. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2012.05.010. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


Vitamin D deficiency, diagnosed when the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD(3)) concentration is less than 20 ng/mL, has joined vitamin A deficiency as two of the most common nutrition-responsive medical conditions worldwide. There have been more scientific articles published about vitamin D in the 21st century than about any other vitamin, reflecting the massive expansion of the field of vitamin D research. Adequate vitamin D status has been linked to decreased risks of developing specific cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, gallbladder, pancreas, lung, breast, uterus, ovary, prostate, urinary bladder, kidney, skin, thyroid, and hematopoietic system (e.g., Hodgkin's lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma); bacterial infections; rheumatoid arthritis; Crohn's disease; periodontal disease; multiple sclerosis; asthma; type 2 diabetes; cardiovascular disease; stroke; peripheral artery disease; hypertension; chronic kidney disease; muscle weakness; cognitive impairment; Alzheimer's disease; clinical depression; and premature death. On the other hand, inadequate vitamin D status during human pregnancy may be associated with increased risk for the development of type 1 diabetes in the offspring. However, this point of view may be excessively optimistic. There also is evidence that despite the current heavy reliance on serum 25-OHD(3) concentration for the diagnosis of an individual's vitamin D status, local tissue vitamin D intoxication may be present in individuals with much lower serum 25-OHD(3) concentrations than are currently appreciated. Only rarely are the symptoms of local tissue vitamin D intoxication associated with vitamin D status or intake. An individual's serum 25-OHD(3) concentration may appear to be "low" for reasons totally independent of sunlight exposure or vitamin D intake. Serum 25-OHD(3) concentration is only poorly responsive to increases in vitamin D intake, and the prolonged routine consumption of thousands of international units of vitamin D may interfere with the regulation of phosphate homeostasis by fibroblast growth factor-23 (FGF23) and the Klotho gene product, with consequences that are detrimental to human health. In light of these counterbalancing observations, curbing excessive enthusiasm for universally increasing vitamin D intake recommendations may be in order.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Glucuronidase / genetics
  • Glucuronidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Pregnancy
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diet therapy
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism


  • Vitamin D
  • Glucuronidase
  • klotho protein