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Optimize dietary intake of vitamin D: an epigenetic perspective

Hossein-nezhad, Arash; Holick, Michael F.

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: November 2012 - Volume 15 - Issue 6 - p 567–579
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283594978
FUNCTIONAL FOODS AND DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: Edited by Nathalie M. Delzenne and Gerard E. Mullin

Purpose of review Vitamin D has received global attention because of its many health benefits. Although there is general agreement about the importance of vitamin D for bone health, there remains skepticism about the nonskeletal health benefits of vitamin D. This review will not only focus on the vitamin D deficiency pandemic and ways to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency but will also explore the epigenetic mechanisms of vitamin D that could help explain many of the nonskeletal benefits of enhancing vitamin D status.

Recent findings The Institute of Medicine and the Endocrine Society have made new recommendations for vitamin D intake to prevent vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a 25-hydroxyvitamin D level below 20 ng/ml and vitamin D insufficiency is defined as 21–29 ng/ml. Recent observations have suggested that vitamin D can influence epigenetics which may help explain the nonskeletal health benefits that have been reported for vitamin D.

Summary There is general agreement that vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide health problem. This is due in part to the lack of appreciation that sunlight is an important source of vitamin D. There is no downside to increasing vitamin D intake and recent observations suggesting that vitamin D influences epigenetics provide a new insight for the importance of vitamin D in utero in reducing risk of chronic diseases later in life.

Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes, Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, Boston University School of Medicine, 85 East Newton Street, M-1013, Boston, MA 02118, USA. Tel: +1 617 638 4546; fax: +1 617 638 8882; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.