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Summary

Accompanying the high rates of vitamin D deficiency observed in many countries, there is increasing interest in the physiological functions of vitamin D. Vitamin D is recognized to exert extra-skeletal actions in addition to its classic roles in bone and mineral homeostasis. Here, we review the evidence for vitamin D's actions in muscle on the basis of observational studies, clinical trials and basic research. Numerous observational studies link vitamin D deficiency with muscle weakness and sarcopaenia. Randomized trials predominantly support an effect of vitamin D supplementation and the prevention of falls in older or institutionalized patients. Studies have also examined the effect of vitamin D in athletic performance, both inferentially by UV radiation and directly by vitamin D supplementation. Effects of vitamin D in muscle metabolic function, specifically insulin sensitivity, are also addressed in this review. At a mechanistic level, animal studies have evaluated the roles of vitamin D and associated minerals, calcium and phosphate, in muscle function. In vitro studies have identified molecular pathways by which vitamin D regulates muscle cell signalling and gene expression. This review evaluates evidence for the various roles of vitamin D in skeletal muscle and discusses controversies that have made this a dynamic field of research.