Author: Trevor Marshall, PhD
The US FDA currently encourages the addition of vitamin D to milk and cereals, with the aim of reducing rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. However, vitamin D not only regulates the expression of genes associated with calcium homeostasis, but also genes associated with cancers, autoimmune disease, and infection. It does this by controlling the activation of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), a type 1 nuclear receptor and DNA transcription factor. Molecular biology is rapidly coming to an understanding of the multiplicity of roles played by the VDR, but clinical medicine is having difficulty keeping up with the pace of change. For example, the FDA recently proposed a rule change that will encourage high levels of vitamin D to be added to even more foods, so that the manufacturers can claim those foods reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The FDA docket does not review one single paper detailing the transcriptional activity of vitamin D, even though, on average, one new paper a day is being published on that topic. Nor do they review whether widespread supplementation with vitamin D, an immunomodulatory secosteroid, might predispose the population to immune dysfunction. This BioEssay explores how lifelong supplementation of the food chain with vitamin D might well be contributing to the current epidemics of obesity and chronic disease.