Significant controversy has emerged over the last decade concerning the effects of vitamin D on skeletal and nonskeletal tissues. The demonstration that the vitamin D receptor is expressed in virtually all cells of the body and the growing body of observational data supporting a relationship of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D to chronic metabolic, cardiovascular, and neoplastic diseases have led to widespread utilization of vitamin D supplementation for the prevention and treatment of numerous disorders. In this paper, we review both the basic and clinical aspects of vitamin D in relation to nonskeletal organ systems. We begin by focusing on the molecular aspects of vitamin D, primarily by examining the structure and function of the vitamin D receptor. This is followed by a systematic review according to tissue type of the inherent biological plausibility, the strength of the observational data, and the levels of evidence that support or refute an association between vitamin D levels or supplementation and maternal/child health as well as various disease states. Although observational studies support a strong case for an association between vitamin D and musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neoplastic, and metabolic disorders, there remains a paucity of large-scale and long-term randomized clinical trials. Thus, at this time, more studies are needed to definitively conclude that vitamin D can offer preventive and therapeutic benefits across a wide range of physiological states and chronic nonskeletal disorders.
Scientific Statements educate basic scientists, clinical scientists, and clinicians on the scientific basis of disease and on how this knowledge can be applied in clinical practice. These publications provide an evidence-based overview of basic and clinical science topics and identify areas that require additional research. Topics are selected on the basis of their emerging scientific impact on disease and their clinical relevance to the general population. Scientific Statements are developed by a multidisciplinary Task Force of experts with representation from several committees within the Endocrine Society.