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Open access

Vitamin D testing and treatment: a narrative review of current evidence

Stefan Pilz, Armin Zittermann, Christian Trummer, Verena Theiler-Schwetz, Elisabeth Lerchbaum, Martin H Keppel, Martin R Grübler, Winfried März, and Marlene Pandis

Vitamin D testing and treatment is a subject of controversial scientific discussions, and it is challenging to navigate through the expanding vitamin D literature with heterogeneous and partially opposed opinions and recommendations. In this narrative review, we aim to provide an update on vitamin D guidelines and the current evidence on the role of vitamin D for human health with its subsequent implications for patient care and public health issues. Vitamin D is critical for bone and mineral metabolism, and it is established that vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets and osteomalacia. While many guidelines recommend target serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) concentrations of ≥50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL), the minimum consensus in the scientific community is that serum 25(OH)D concentrations below 25–30 nmol/L (10–12 ng/mL) must be prevented and treated. Using this latter threshold of serum 25(OH)D concentrations, it has been documented that there is a high worldwide prevalence of vitamin D deficiency that may require public health actions such as vitamin D food fortification. On the other hand, there is also reason for concern that an exploding rate of vitamin D testing and supplementation increases costs and might potentially be harmful. In the scientific debate on vitamin D, we should consider that nutrient trials differ from drug trials and that apart from the opposed positions regarding indications for vitamin D treatment we still have to better characterize the precise role of vitamin D for human health.

Open access

Vitamin D and musculoskeletal health: outstanding aspects to be considered in the light of current evidence

Marcela Moraes Mendes, Patricia Borges Botelho, and Helena Ribeiro

Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralisation, promotes maintenance of muscle function, and is crucial for musculoskeletal health. Low vitamin D status triggers secondary hyperparathyroidism, increases bone loss, and leads to muscle weakness. The primary physiologic function of vitamin D and its metabolites is maintaining calcium homeostasis for metabolic functioning, signal transduction, and neuromuscular activity. A considerable amount of human evidence supports the well-recognised contribution of adequate serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations for bone homeostasis maintenance and prevention and treatment strategies for osteoporosis when combined with adequate calcium intake. This paper aimed to review the literature published, mainly in the last 20 years, on the effect of vitamin D and its supplementation for musculoskeletal health in order to identify the aspects that remain unclear or controversial and therefore require further investigation and debate. There is a clear need for consistent data to establish realistic and meaningful recommendations of vitamin D status that consider different population groups and locations. Moreover, there is still a lack of consensus on thresholds for vitamin D deficiency and optimal status as well as toxicity, optimal intake of vitamin D, vitamin D supplement alone as a strategy to prevent fractures and falls, recommended sun exposure at different latitudes and for different skin pigmentations, and the extra skeletal effects of vitamin D.

Open access

Cholecalciferol supplementation effectively improved tertiary hyperparathyroidism, FGF23 resistance and lowered coronary calcification score: a prospective study

Shu-Meng Hu, Yang-Juan Bai, Ya-Mei Li, Ye Tao, Xian-Ding Wang, Tao Lin, Lan-Lan Wang, and Yun-Ying Shi


Tertiary hyperparathyroidism (THPT) and vitamin D deficiency are commonly seen in kidney transplant recipients, which may result in persistently elevated fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) level after transplantation and decreased graft survival. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on THPT, FGF23-alpha Klotho (KLA) axis and cardiovascular complications after transplantation.

Materials and methods

Two hundred nine kidney transplant recipients were included and further divided into treated and untreated groups depending on whether they received vitamin D supplementation. We tracked the state of THPT, bone metabolism and FGF23–KLA axis within 12 months posttransplant and explored the predictors and risk factors for intact FGF23 levels, KLA levels, THPT and cardiovascular complications in recipients.


Vitamin D supplementation significantly improved FGF23 resistance, THPT and high bone turnover status, preserved better graft function and prevented coronary calcification in the treated group compared to the untreated group at month 12. The absence of vitamin D supplementation was an independent risk factor for THPT and a predictor for intact FGF23 and KLA levels at month 12. Age and vitamin D deficiency were independent risk factors for coronary calcification in recipients at month 12.


Vitamin D supplementation effectively improved THPT, FGF23 resistance and bone metabolism, preserved graft function and prevented coronary calcification after transplantation.

Open access

100 YEARS OF VITAMIN D: Supraphysiological doses of vitamin D changes brainwave activity patterns in rats

Gabriella Oliveira Lima, Alex Luiz Menezes da Silva, Julianne Elba Cunha Azevedo, Chirlene Pinheiro Nascimento, Luana Rodrigues Vieira, Akira Otake Hamoy, Luan Oliveira Ferreira, Verônica Regina Lobato Oliveira Bahia, Nilton Akio Muto, Dielly Catrina Favacho Lopes, and Moisés Hamoy

Low plasma levels of vitamin D causes bone mineral change that can precipitate osteopenia and osteoporosis and could aggravate autoimmune diseases, hypertension and diabetes. The demand for vitamin D supplementation becomes necessary; however, the consumption of vitamin D is not without risks, which its toxicity could have potentially serious consequences related to hypervitaminosis D, such as hypercalcemia and cerebral alterations. Thus, the present study describes the electroencephalographic changes caused by supraphysiological doses of vitamin D in the brain electrical dynamics and the electrocardiographic changes. After 4 days of treatment with vitamin D at a dose of 25,000 IU/kg, the serum calcium levels found were increased in comparison with the control group. The electrocorticogram analysis found a reduction in wave activity in the delta, theta, alpha and beta frequency bands. For ECG was observed changes with shortened QT follow-up, which could be related to serum calcium concentration. This study presented important evidence about the cerebral and cardiac alterations caused by high doses of vitamin D, indicating valuable parameters in the screening and decision-making process for diagnosing patients with symptoms suggestive of intoxication.

Open access

Vitamin D and PTH: data from a cross-sectional study in an equatorial population

Natércia Neves Marques de Queiroz, Franciane Trindade Cunha de Melo, Fabrício de Souza Resende, Luísa Corrêa Janaú, Norberto Jorge Kzan de Souza Neto, Manuela Nascimento de Lemos, Ana Carolina Lobato Virgolino, Maria Clara Neres Iunes de Oliveira, Angélica Leite de Alcântara, Lorena Vilhena de Moraes, Tiago Franco David, Wanderson Maia da Silva, Scarlatt Souza Reis, Márcia Costa dos Santos, Ana Carolina Contente Braga de Souza, Pedro Paulo Freire Piani, Neyla Arroyo Lara Mourão, Karem Mileo Felício, João Felício Abrahão Neto, and João Soares Felício


Investigate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in an equatorial population through a large-sample study.


Cross-sectional study with 30,224 healthy individuals from the North Region, in Brazil (Amazônia – state of Pará), who had 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D) and intact parathyroid hormone (PTH) serum levels measured by immunoassay method. Those with history of acute or chronic diseases were excluded. Abnormal levels of calcium, creatinine, glycemia and albumin were also exclusion criteria.


25(OH)D levels were 29.1 ± 8.2 ng/mL and values <12.7 ng/mL were equal to < −2 s.d. below average. Hypovitaminosis D was present in 10% of subjects according to the Institute of Medicine (values <20 ng/mL) and in 59%, in consonance with Endocrine Society (values 20–30 ng/mL as insufficiency and <20 ng/mL as deficiency) criteria. Individuals were divided according to four age brackets: children, adolescents, adults and elderly, and their 25(OH)D levels were: 33 ± 9; 28.5 ± 7.4; 28.3 ± 7.7; 29.3 ± 8.5 ng/mL, respectively. All groups differed in 25(OH)D, except adolescents vs adults. Regression model showed BMI, sex, living zone (urban or rural) and age as independent variables to 25(OH)D levels. Comparing subjects with vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/mL) to those with vitamin D insufficiency (20–30 ng/mL), a difference between PTH levels in these two groups was observed (95.9 ± 24.7 pg/mL vs 44.2 ± 64.5 pg/mL; P < 0.01). Additionally, the most accurate predictive vitamin D level for subclinical hyperparathyroidism in ROC curve was 26 ng/mL.


Our equatorial population showed low prevalence of vitamin D hypovitaminosis ranging with age bracket. The insufficient category by Endocrine Society was corroborated by our PTH data.

Open access

Low serum 1,25(OH)2D3 in end-stage renal disease: is reduced 1α-hydroxylase the only problem?

Sharon A Huish, Carl Jenkinson, Janet A Dunn, David J Meredith, Rosemary Bland, and Martin Hewison

Low serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D) in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is considered a consequence of elevated fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) and concomitant reduced activity of renal 1α-hydroxylase (CYP27B1). Current ESRD treatment strategies to increase serum calcium and suppress secondary hyperparathyroidism involve supplementation with vitamin D analogues that circumvent 1α-hydroxylase. This overlooks the potential importance of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) deficiency as a contributor to low serum 1,25(OH)2D. We investigated the effects of vitamin D (cholecalciferol) supplementation (40,000 IU for 12 weeks and maintenance dose of 20,000 IU fortnightly), on multiple serum vitamin D metabolites (25(OH)D, 1,25(OH)2D3 and 24,25(OH)2D3) in 55 haemodialysis patients. Baseline and 12 month data were compared using related-samples Wilcoxon signed rank test. All patients remained on active vitamin D analogues as part of routine ESRD care. 1,25(OH)2D3 levels were low at baseline (normal range: 60–120 pmol/L). Cholecalciferol supplementation normalised both serum 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)2D3. Median serum 25(OH)D increased from 35.1 nmol/L (IQR: 23.0–47.5 nmol/L) to 119.9 nmol/L (IQR: 99.5–143.3 nmol/L) (P < 0.001). Median serum 1,25(OH)2D3 and 24,25(OH)2D3 increased from 48.3 pmol/L (IQR: 35.9–57.9 pmol/L) and 3.8 nmol/L (IQR: 2.3–6.0 nmol/L) to 96.2 pmol/L (IQR: 77.1–130.6 pmol/L) and 12.3 nmol/L (IQR: 9–16.4 nmol/L), respectively (P < 0.001). A non-significant reduction in daily active vitamin D analogue dose occurred, 0.94 µmcg at baseline to 0.77 µmcg at 12 months (P = 0.73). The ability to synthesise 1,25(OH)2D3 in ESRD is maintained but is substrate dependent, and serum 25(OH)D was a limiting factor at baseline. Therefore, 1,25(OH)2D3 deficiency in ESRD is partly a consequence of 25(OH)D deficiency, rather than solely due to reduced 1α-hydroxylase activity as suggested by current treatment strategies.

Open access

Prolonged treatment with vitamin D in postmenopausal women with primary hyperparathyroidism

Ranganathan R Rao, Harpal S Randeva, Sailesh Sankaranarayanan, Murthy Narashima, Matthias Möhlig, Hisham Mehanna, and Martin O Weickert


Vitamin D deficiency further increases circulating parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT), with potential detrimental effects on bone mass.


This was an observational clinical study in consecutive conservatively treated postmenopausal women (n=40) with pHPT and coexistent 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficiency (25OHD ≤50 nmol/l (≤20 ng/ml)). Patients who showed an increase in serum 25OHD above the threshold of vitamin D deficiency (>50 nmol/l; n=28) using treatment with various commonly prescribed vitamin D preparations were, for the purposes of statistical analyses, allocated to the treatment group. Patients who were retrospectively identified as having received no treatment with vitamin D and/or remained vitamin D deficient were considered as non-responders/controls (n=12). Adjusted calcium (adjCa), PTH and 25OHD concentrations were monitored in all subjects up to 54 months (mean observation period of 18±2 months).


Prolonged increased vitamin D intake, regardless of the source (serum 25OHD, increase from 32.2±1.7 nmol/l at baseline to 136.4±11.6 nmol/l, P<0.0001), significantly reduced serum PTH (13.3±1.1 vs 10.5±1.0 pmol/l, P=0.0001), with no adverse effects on adjCa levels (2.60±0.03 vs 2.60±0.02 mmol/l, P=0.77) and renal function tests (P>0.73). In contrast, serum PTH remained unchanged (15.8±2.6 vs 16.3±1.9 pmol/l, P=0.64) in patients who remained vitamin D deficient, with a significant difference between groups in changes of PTH (P=0.0003). Intrapartial correlation analyses showed an independent negative correlation of changes in 25OHD with PTH levels (r ic=−0.41, P=0.014).


Prolonged treatment with vitamin D in various commonly prescribed preparations appeared to be safe and significantly reduced PTH levels by 21%.

Open access

Vitamin D deficiency in British South Asians, a persistent but avoidable problem associated with many health risks (including rickets, T2DM, CVD, COVID-19 and pregnancy complications): the case for correcting this deficiency

Barbara J Boucher

High vitamin D deficiency rates, with rickets and osteomalacia, have been common in South Asians (SAs) arriving in Britain since the 1950s with preventable infant deaths from hypocalcaemic status-epilepticus and cardiomyopathy. Vitamin D deficiency increases common SA disorders (type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease), recent trials and non-linear Mendelian randomisation studies having shown deficiency to be causal for both disorders. Ethnic minority, obesity, diabetes and social deprivation are recognised COVID-19 risk factors, but vitamin D deficiency is not, despite convincing mechanistic evidence of it. Adjusting analyses for obesity/ethnicity abolishes vitamin D deficiency in COVID-19 risk prediction, but both factors lower serum 25(OH)D specifically. Social deprivation inadequately explains increased ethnic minority COVID-19 risks. SA vitamin D deficiency remains uncorrected after 70 years, official bodies using ‘education’, ‘assimilation’ and ‘diet’ as ‘proxies’ for ethnic differences and increasing pressures to assimilate. Meanwhile, English rickets was abolished from ~1940 by free ‘welfare foods’ (meat, milk, eggs, cod liver oil), for all pregnant/nursing mothers and young children (<5 years old). Cod liver oil was withdrawn from antenatal clinics in 1994 (for excessive vitamin A teratogenicity), without alternative provision. The take-up of the 2006 ‘Healthy-Start’ scheme of food-vouchers for low-income families with young children (<3 years old) has been poor, being inaccessible and poorly publicised. COVID-19 pandemic advice for UK adults in ‘lockdown’ was ‘400 IU vitamin D/day’, inadequate for correcting the deficiency seen winter/summer at 17.5%/5.9% in White, 38.5%/30% in Black and 57.2%/50.8% in SA people in representative UK Biobank subjects when recruited ~14 years ago and remaining similar in 2018. Vitamin D inadequacy worsens many non-skeletal health risks. Not providing vitamin D for preventing SA rickets and osteomalacia continues to be unacceptable, as deficiency-related health risks increase ethnic health disparities, while abolishing vitamin D deficiency would be easier and more cost-effective than correcting any other factor worsening ethnic minority health in Britain.

Open access

Vitamin D is associated with blood lead exposure through bone turnover in type 2 diabetes patients

Haojie Zhang, Yuke Cui, Ruihua Dong, Wen Zhang, Shihan Chen, Heng Wan, Chi Chen, Yi Chen, Yuying Wang, Chunfang Zhu, Bo Chen, Ningjian Wang, and Yingli Lu


Bone is thought to be the reservoir of the human lead burden, and vitamin D is associated with bone turnover. We aimed to explore whether exposure to lower 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) levels was associated with higher blood lead levels (BLLs) by increasing the bone turnover rate in individuals with type 2 diabetes.


A total of 4103 type 2 diabetic men and postmenopausal women in Shanghai, China, were enrolled in 2018. Their 25(OH)D, β-C-terminal telopeptide (β-CTX), N-MID osteocalcin and procollagen type 1 N-peptide (P1NP) levels were detected. Their BLLs were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry. Mediation analyses were performed to identify the possible role that bone turnover played in the underlying mechanisms.


In both the men and postmenopausal women, all three bone turnover markers were inversely associated with 25(OH)D and positively associated with the BLL (all P < 0.01) after adjusting for age, current smoking habits, metabolic parameters, duration of diabetes, vitamin D intake, and use of anti-osteoporosis medication. In the mediation analyses, none of the direct associations between 25(OH)D and BLL was significant for the three bone turnover markers, but all three bone turnover markers were found to be significant mediators of the indirect associations between 25(OH)D and BLL.


The association between vitamin D and BLL was fully mediated by bone turnover markers in type 2 diabetic patients (mediation effect). This finding suggested that vitamin D may protect against blood lead exposure from the bone reservoir by decreasing bone turnover in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Open access

Coagulation and fibrinolysis in hyperparathyroidism secondary to vitamin D deficiency

Laura P B Elbers, Marije Wijnberge, Joost C M Meijers, Dennis C W Poland, Dees P M Brandjes, Eric Fliers, and Victor E A Gerdes


Abnormal coagulation tests have been observed in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism (HPT) suggesting a prothrombotic effect of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Vitamin D deficiency (VIDD) is the most frequent cause of secondary HPT. Aim of our study was to investigate the influence of HPT secondary to moderate-to-severe VIDD and vitamin D replacement on the coagulation and fibrinolysis system.

Subjects and methods

Prospective cohort study of patients with vitamin D <25 nmol/L with and without HPT, and a control group of patients on vitamin D suppletion. At baseline and after 2 months of vitamin D suppletion (900,000 IU in 2 months), endocrine and coagulation markers were measured.


59 patients with VIDD of which 34 had secondary HPT and 36 controls were included. After 2 months of suppletion, vitamin D increased by 399% (VIDD with HPT), 442% (all patients with VIDD) and 6% (controls). PTH decreased by 34% (VIDD with HPT, P < 0.01 for decrease), 32% (all VIDD, P < 0.01) and increased by 8% in the controls (P-values: <0.01 for relative changes between VIDD with HPT or all VIDD patients vs controls). Relative changes in PT, aPTT, fibrinogen, Von Willebrand factor, factors VII, VIII and X, thrombin generation, TAFI, clot-lysis time and d-dimer were not different between patients with VIDD with HPT or all VIDD vs controls.


Secondary HPT due to VIDD does not have a prothrombotic effect. In contrast with previous reports, PTH does not seem to influence coagulation or fibrinolysis, which is relevant because of the high prevalence of VIDD.