Vitamin D, sub-inflammation and insulin resistance. A window on a potential role for the interaction between bone and glucose metabolism

Stefania Giuliana Garbossa, Franco Folli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Vitamin D is a key hormone involved in the regulation of calcium/phosphorous balance and recently it has been implicated in the pathogenesis of sub-inflammation, insulin resistance and obesity. The two main forms of vitamin D are cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2): the active form (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D) is the result of two hydroxylations that take place in liver, kidney, pancreas and immune cells. Vitamin D increases the production of some anti-inflammatory cytokines and reduces the release of some pro-inflammatory cytokines. Low levels of Vitamin D are also associated with an up-regulation of TLRs expression and a pro-inflammatory state. Regardless of the effect on inflammation, Vitamin D seems to directly increase insulin sensitivity and secretion, through different mechanisms. Considering the importance of low grade chronic inflammation in metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes, many authors hypothesized the involvement of this nutrient/hormone in the pathogenesis of these diseases. Vitamin D status could alter the balance between pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines and thus affect insulin action, lipid metabolism and adipose tissue function and structure. Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D concentrations are inversely associated with pro-inflammatory markers, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and obesity. Interestingly, some longitudinal trials suggested also an inverse association between vitamin D status and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, vitamin D supplementation in humans showed controversial effects: with some studies demonstrating improvements in insulin sensitivity, glucose and lipid metabolism while others showing no beneficial effect on glycemic control and on inflammation. In conclusion, although the evidences of a significant role of Vitamin D on inflammation, insulin resistance and insulin secretion in the pathogenesis of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, its potential function in treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus is unclear. Encouraging results have emerged from Vitamin D supplementation trials on patients at risk of developing diabetes and further studies are needed to fully explore and understand its clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalReviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 13 2017


  • Fractalkine
  • Il-6
  • Insulin resistance
  • MCP-1
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Osteocalcin
  • Osteopontin
  • Osteoprotegerin
  • Sclerostin
  • Sub-inflammation
  • TNF-α
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology

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