Harvard Men's Health Watch

Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes

Vitamin D was discovered in 1920, culminating the long search for a way to cure rickets, a painful childhood bone disease. Within a decade, the fortification of foods with vitamin D was under way, and rickets became rare in the United States. But solving the problem of rickets was only the beginning of research into vitamin D. Results suggest that vitamin D may have an important role in many aspects of human health, from bone fractures to prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular problems, and diabetes.

Breaking the old rules

Vitamin D is one of the 13 vitamins discovered in the early 20th century by doctors studying nutritional deficiency diseases. Ever since, scientists have defined vitamins as organic (carbon-containing) chemicals that must be obtained from dietary sources because they are not produced by the body's tissues. Vitamins play a crucial role in our body's metabolism, but only tiny amounts are needed to fill that role.

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