Vitamin D: not just the bone. Evidence for beneficial pleiotropic extraskeletal effects

Eat Weight Disord. 2017 Mar;22(1):27-41. doi: 10.1007/s40519-016-0312-6. Epub 2016 Aug 23.


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and a steroid hormone that plays a central role in maintaining calcium-phosphorus and bone homeostasis in close interaction with parathyroid hormone, acting on its classical target tissues, namely, bone, kidney, intestine, and parathyroid glands. However, vitamin D endocrine system regulates several genes (about 3 % of the human genome) involved in cell differentiation, cell-cycle control, and cell function and exerts noncalcemic/pleiotropic effects on extraskeletal target tissues, such as immune and cardiovascular system, pancreatic endocrine cells, muscle, and adipose tissue. Several studies have demonstrated the role of vitamin D supplementation in the prevention/treatment of various autoimmune diseases and improvement of glucose metabolism, muscle, and adipose tissue function. Hence, this review aims to elucidate the effects of vitamin D on extraskeletal target tissues and to investigate the potential therapeutic benefit of vitamin D supplementation among a broad group of pathological conditions, especially with regard to metabolic and autoimmune diseases. In addition, we focused on the best daily intakes and serum levels of vitamin D required for extraskeletal benefits which, even if still controversial, appear to be higher than those widely accepted for skeletal effects.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Anorexia nervosa; Autoimmune diseases; Diabetes; Eating disorders; Glucose metabolism; Hashimoto thyroiditis; Multiple sclerosis; Obesity; Skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / blood*


  • Vitamin D