An Update on Vitamin D and Human Immunity


In the last 5 years, there has been a remarkable change in our understanding of the health benefits of vitamin D. The classical actions of vitamin D as a determinant of mineral metabolism and rachitic bone disease have been expanded to include a broader role in skeletal homoeostasis and prevalent bone disorders such as osteoporosis. However, it is the nonskeletal function of vitamin D that has attracted most attention. Although pluripotent responses to vitamin D have been recognized for many years, our new perspective on nonclassical vitamin D function stems from two more recent concepts. The first is that impaired, vitamin D status is common to many populations across the globe. This has prompted studies to explore the health impact of suboptimal circulating levels of vitamin D, with association studies linking vitamin D 'insufficiency' to several chronic health problems including autoimmune and cardiovascular disease, hypertension and common cancers. In support of a broader role for vitamin D in human health, studies in vitro and using animal models have highlighted immunomodulatory and anticancer effects of vitamin D that appear to depend on localized activation of vitamin D. The conclusion from these reports is that many nonclassical actions of vitamin D are independent of conventional vitamin D endocrinology and are therefore more sensitive to variations in vitamin D status. The current review summarizes these developments, with specific reference to the newly identified effects of vitamin D on the immune system, but also highlights the challenges in translating these observations to clinical practice.

This excellent Update, with link to full text article,  is in Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 76 (3), 315-25  Mar 2012

Giovambattista Scarfone

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