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.