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.
Stefan Pilz, Armin Zittermann, Christian Trummer, Verena Theiler-Schwetz, Elisabeth Lerchbaum, Martin H Keppel, Martin R Grübler, Winfried März and Marlene Pandis
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%.
Mirjam M Oosterwerff, Rosa Meijnen, Natasja M Van Schoor, Dirk L Knol, Mark H H Kramer, Mireille N M Van Poppel, Paul Lips and E Marelise W Eekhoff
Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent among non-western immigrants in The Netherlands and associated with poor physical performance. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of vitamin D supplementation on physical performance, exercise capacity, and daily physical activity in vitamin D-deficient, overweight non-western immigrants. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to assess the effect of vitamin D on physical performance. A total of 130 participants were included. Eligibility criteria included overweight (BMI >27 kg/m2), 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) ≤50 nmol/l, and an age range of 20–65 years. The intervention group received 1200 IU vitamin D3 daily for 4 months; the control group received placebo. Both groups received 500 mg calcium daily. Outcome measures included physical performance (physical performance score), exercise capacity (a 6-min walk test (6-MWT)), and daily physical activity (questionnaire and accelerometer). There was no significant effect on physical performance, exercise capacity, or physical activity in the intention to treat analysis. In an explorative post hoc analysis restricted to participants reaching a serum 25(OH)D concentration of >60 nmol/l after intervention, there was an improvement of 19 m in the 6-MWT compared with the control group (P=0.053). Moderate dose vitamin D supplementation did not significantly improve physical performance, exercise capacity, or physical activity. However, when 25(OH)D concentrations reached >60 nmol/l after intervention, there was a borderline significant improvement in exercise capacity. Although the clinical relevance is not clear, this is a promising result, as all participants were overweight and did not improve their overall activity levels.
Stan Ursem, Vito Francic, Martin Keppel, Verena Schwetz, Christian Trummer, Marlene Pandis, Felix Aberer, Martin R Grübler, Nicolas D Verheyen, Winfried März, Andreas Tomaschitz, Stefan Pilz, Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch and Annemieke C Heijboer
PTH can be oxidised in vivo, rendering it biologically inactive. Non-oxidised PTH (n-oxPTH) may therefore give a better image of the hormonal status of the patient. While vitamin D supplementation decreases total PTH (tPTH) concentration, the effect on n-oxPTH concentration is unexplored. We investigated the effect of vitamin D on n-oxPTH concentration in comparison to tPTH and compared the correlations between parameters of calcium, bone and lipid metabolism with n-oxPTH and tPTH.
N-oxPTH was measured in 108 vitamin D-insufficient (25(OH)D <75 nmol/L) hypertensive patients, treated with vitamin D (2800 IE daily) or placebo for 8 weeks in the Styrian Vitamin D Hypertension Trial (NCT02136771). We calculated the treatment effect and performed correlation analyses of n-oxPTH and tPTH with parameters of calcium, bone and lipid metabolism and oxidative stress.
After treatment, compared to placebo, 25(OH)D concentrations increased, tPTH decreased by 9% (P < 0.001), n-oxPTH by 7% (P = 0.025) and the ratio of n-oxPTH/tPTH increased (P = 0.027). Changes in phosphate and HDL concentration correlated with changes in n-oxPTH, but not tPTH.
tPTH and n-oxPTH decrease upon vitamin D supplementation. Our study suggests that vitamin D supplementation reduces the oxidation of PTH, as we observed a small but significant increase in the non-oxidised proportion of PTH upon treatment. In addition, we found that changes in phosphate and HDL concentration showed a relationship with changes in n-oxPTH, but not tPTH. This may be explained by the biological activity of n-oxPTH. Further research should be carried out to establish the clinical relevance of n-oxPTH.
Melissa Braga, Zena Simmons, Keith C Norris, Monica G Ferrini and Jorge N Artaza
Skeletal muscle wasting is a serious disorder associated with health conditions such as aging, chronic kidney disease and AIDS. Vitamin D is most widely recognized for its regulation of calcium and phosphate homeostasis in relation to bone development and maintenance. Recently, vitamin D supplementation has been shown to improve muscle performance and reduce the risk of falls in vitamin D deficient older adults. However, little is known of the underlying molecular mechanism(s) or the role it plays in myogenic differentiation. We examined the effect of 1,25-D3 on myogenic cell differentiation in skeletal muscle derived stem cells. Primary cultures of skeletal muscle satellite cells were isolated from the tibialis anterior, soleus and gastrocnemius muscles of 8-week-old C57/BL6 male mice and then treated with 1,25-D3. The efficiency of satellite cells isolation determined by PAX7+ cells was 81%, and they expressed VDR. Incubation of satellite cells with 1,25-D3 induces increased expression of: (i) MYOD, (ii) MYOG, (iii) MYC2, (iv) skeletal muscle fast troponin I and T, (v) MYH1, (vi) IGF1 and 2, (vii) FGF1 and 2, (viii) BMP4, (ix) MMP9 and (x) FST. It also promotes myotube formation and decreases the expression of MSTN. In conclusion, 1,25-D3 promoted a robust myogenic effect on satellite cells responsible for the regeneration of muscle after injury or muscle waste. This study provides a mechanistic justification for vitamin D supplementation in conditions characterized by loss of muscle mass and also in vitamin D deficient older adults with reduced muscle mass and strength, and increased risk of falls.
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.
Malachi J McKenna, Barbara F Murray, Myra O'Keane and Mark T Kilbane
The Institute of Medicine 2011 Report on Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D specified higher intakes for all age groups compared to the 1997 report, but also cautioned against spurious claims about an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and against advocates of higher intake requirements. Over 40 years, we have noted marked improvement in vitamin D status but we are concerned about hypervitaminosis D.
We sought to evaluate the 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) trend over 20 years.
We retrieved all results of serum 25OHD from 1993 to 2013 (n=69 012) that was trimmed to one sample per person (n=43 782). We conducted a time series analysis of the monthly averages for 25OHD using a simple sequence chart and a running median smoothing function. We modelled the data using univariate auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) and forecast 25OHD levels up to 2016.
The time series sequence chart and smoother function demonstrated a steady upward trend with seasonality. The yearly average 25OHD increased from 36.1 nmol/l in 1993 to 57.3 nmol/l in 2013. The ARIMA model was a good fit for the 25OHD time series; it forecasted monthly average 25OHD up to the end of 2016 with a positive stationary R 2 of 0.377.
Vitamin D status improved over the past 40 years, but there remains a dual problem: there are groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency who need public health preventative measures; on the other hand, random members of the population are taking unnecessarily high vitamin D intakes for unsubstantiated claims.
Karoline Winckler, Lise Tarnow, Louise Lundby-Christensen, Thomas P Almdal, Niels Wiinberg, Pia Eiken, Trine W Boesgaard and the CIMT trial group
Despite aggressive treatment of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) still have increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The primary aim of this study was to examine the cross-sectional association between total (25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D)) and risk of CVD in patients with T2D. Secondary objective was to examine the association between 25(OH)D and bone health. A Danish cohort of patients with T2D participating in a randomised clinical trial were analysed. In total 415 patients (68% men, age 60±9 years (mean±s.d.), duration of diabetes 12±6 years), including 294 patients (71%) treated with insulin. Carotid intima–media thickness (IMT) and arterial stiffness (carotid artery distensibility coefficient (DC) and Young's elastic modulus (YEM)) were measured by ultrasound scan as indicators of CVD. Bone health was assessed by bone mineral density and trabecular bone score measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. In this cohort, 214 patients (52%) were vitamin D deficient (25(OH)D <50 nmol/l). Carotid IMT was 0.793±0.137 mm, DC was 0.0030±0.001 mmHg, YEM was 2354±1038 mmHg and 13 (3%) of the patients were diagnosed with osteoporosis. A 25(OH)D level was not associated with carotid IMT or arterial stiffness (P>0.3) or bone health (P>0.6) after adjustment for CVD risk factors. In conclusion, 25(OH)D status was not associated with carotid IMT, arterial stiffness or bone health in this cohort of patients with T2D. To explore these associations and the association with other biomarkers further, multicentre studies with large numbers of patients are required.
A Chinoy, M Skae, A Babiker, D Kendall, M Z Mughal and R Padidela
Hypoparathyroidism is characterised by hypocalcaemia, and standard management is with an active vitamin D analogue and adequate oral calcium intake (dietary and/or supplements). Little is described in the literature about the impact of intercurrent illnesses on calcium homeostasis in children with hypoparathyroidism.
We describe three children with hypoparathyroidism in whom intercurrent illnesses led to hypocalcaemia and escalation of treatment with alfacalcidol (1-hydroxycholecalciferol) and calcium supplements.
Three infants managed with standard treatment for hypoparathyroidism (two with homozygous mutations in GCMB2 gene and one with Sanjad-Sakati syndrome) developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia (two infants developed seizures) following respiratory or gastrointestinal illnesses. Substantial increases in alfacalcidol doses (up to three times their pre-illness doses) and calcium supplementation were required to achieve acceptable serum calcium concentrations. However, following resolution of illness, these children developed an increase in serum calcium and hypercalciuria, necessitating rapid reduction to pre-illness dosages of alfacalcidol and oral calcium supplementation.
Intercurrent illness may precipitate symptomatic hypocalcaemia in children with hypoparathyroidism, necessitating increase in dosages of alfacalcidol and calcium supplements. Close monitoring is required on resolution of the intercurrent illness, with timely reduction of dosages of active analogues of vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent hypercalcaemia, hypercalciuria and nephrocalcinosis.
Christian Trummer, Stefan Pilz, Verena Schwetz, Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch and Elisabeth Lerchbaum
Accumulating evidence from animal and human studies suggests that vitamin D is involved in many functions of the reproductive system in both genders.
The aim of this review was to provide an overview on the effects of vitamin D on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women and androgen metabolism in men.
We performed a systematic literature search in PubMed for relevant English language publications published from January 2012 until September 2017.
Results and discussion
The vitamin D receptor and vitamin D-metabolizing enzymes are found in reproductive tissues of women and men. In women, vitamin D status has been associated with several features of PCOS. In detail, cross-sectional data suggest a regulatory role of vitamin D in PCOS-related aspects such as ovulatory dysfunction, insulin resistance as well as hyperandrogenism. Moreover, results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial for metabolic, endocrine and fertility aspects in PCOS. In men, vitamin D status has been associated with androgen levels and hypogonadism. Further, there is some evidence for a favorable effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone concentrations, although others failed to show a significant effect on testosterone levels.
In summary, vitamin D deficiency is associated with adverse fertility outcomes including PCOS and hypogonadism, but the evidence is insufficient to establish causality. High-quality RCTs are needed to further evaluate the effects of vitamin D supplementation in PCOS women as well as on androgen levels in men.