Study explores kidney-related benefits of vitamin D

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty images / Hiroshi Watanabe
Getty images / Hiroshi Watanabe

Related tags kidney function pre-diabetes Vitamin d

The effect of vitamin D supplementation on kidney health is still unclear. A recent large-scale study in a population with prediabetes did not find marked differences between vitamin D and placebo groups, but a urine protein measure suggested a potential benefit.

Many studies​ have shown that vitamin D plays a renal protective role, as supplementation is expected to delay the progression of diabetic kidney disease, however, results from previous studies​ suggest otherwise. To determine whether vitamin D supplements offer kidney-related benefits for individuals with high diabetes risk, researchers conducted a clinical trial recently that examined the potential of vitamin D to support kidney health of individuals with pre-diabetes.

Because low blood vitamin D levels have been linked to higher risks of type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, researchers conducted a secondary analysis of the Vitamin D and type 2 diabetes study to evaluate the effects of vitamin D supplementation on kidney health in individuals with pre-diabetes—a condition that increases risk for type 2 diabetes, the leading cause of kidney disease.

The D2d study

The study, published in Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology​, randomized 2,423 adults with overweight/obesity and pre-diabetes to vitamin D3 4000 IU per day or placebo, for a median treatment duration of about 3 years.

"The D2d study is unique because we recruited individuals with high-risk pre-diabetes, having 2-out-of-3 abnormal glucose values, and we recruited more than 2,000 participants, representing the largest vitamin D diabetes prevention trial to date,"​ noted lead author Sun H. Kim, MD, MS of Stanford University School of Medicine.



During the trial, there were 28 cases of kidney function worsening in the vitamin D group and 30 in the placebo group, and the average change in kidney function during follow-up was similar in both groups.

"Our results did not show a benefit of vitamin D supplements on kidney function. About 43% of the study population was taking outside-of-study vitamin D, up to 1000 IU daily, at study entry, though. Among those who were not taking any vitamin D on their own, there was a suggestion for vitamin D lowering the amount of urine protein over time, which means that it could have a beneficial effect on kidney health. Additional studies are needed to look into this further,"​ Kim said.

Deficiency may have been a factor

Kim added that vitamin D supplementation is popular, and it's difficult for clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation to show a benefit if the population studied is not vitamin D deficient.

"The majority of the study population had sufficient blood vitamin D levels and normal kidney function,"​ Kim said. "Benefits of vitamin D might be greater in people with low blood vitamin D levels and/or reduced kidney function."

Source: Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology
(2021) DOI: 10.2215/CJN.00420121
“Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Kidney Function in Adults with Prediabetes”
Authors: S.H. Kim et al.

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