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In pursuit of vitamin D in plants

  • Lucinda J. Black
  • Robyn M. Lucas
  • Jill L. Sherriff
  • Lars Olof Björn
  • Janet F. Bornman
Publishing year: 2017-02-13
Language: English
Publication/Series: Nutrients
Volume: 9
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: MDPI AG

Abstract english

Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern. Much research has concentrated on the endogenous synthesis of vitamin D in human skin following exposure to ultraviolet‐B radiation (UV‐B, 280–315 nm). In many regions of the world there is insufficient UV‐B radiation during winter months for adequate vitamin D production, and even when there is sufficient UV‐B radiation, lifestyles and concerns about the risks of sun exposure may lead to insufficient exposure and to vitamin D deficiency. In these situations, dietary intake of vitamin D from foods or supplements is important for maintaining optimal vitamin D status. Some foods, such as fatty fish and fish liver oils, certain meats, eggs, mushrooms, dairy, and fortified foods, can provide significant amounts of vitamin D when considered cumulatively across the diet. However, little research has focussed on assessing edible plant foods for potential vitamin D content. The biosynthesis of vitamin D in animals, fungi and yeasts is well established; it is less well known that vitamin D is also biosynthesised in plants. Research dates back to the early 1900s, beginning with in vivo experiments showing the anti‐rachitic activity of plants consumed by animals with induced rickets, and in vitro experiments using analytical methods with limited sensitivity. The most sensitive, specific and reliable method for measuring vitamin D and its metabolites is by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC‐MS/MS). These assays have only recently been customised to allow measurement in foods, including plant materials. This commentary focuses on the current knowledge and research gaps around vitamin D in plants, and the potential of edible plants as an additional source of vitamin D for humans.


  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • 1,25‐dihydroxyvitamin D
  • 25‐hydroxyvitamin D
  • Plants
  • Vitamin D


  • ISSN: 2072-6643
Lars Olof Björn
E-mail: lars_olof [dot] bjorn [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Molecular Cell Biology

+46 46 222 72 53