Con: Nutritional vitamin D replacement in chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2016 May;31(5):706-13. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfw080.


Insufficiency of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] is highly prevalent among patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and is a critical component in the pathogenesis of secondary hyperparathyroidism. Accordingly, current National Kidney Foundation-Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative and Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes guidelines recommend the correction of hypovitaminosis D through nutritional vitamin D replacement as a first-step therapeutic approach targeting secondary hyperparathyroidism. In this Polar Views debate, we summarize the existing evidence, aiming to defend the position that nutritional vitamin D replacement is not evidence-based and should not be applied to patients with CKD. This position is supported by the following: (i) our meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials shows that whereas nutritional vitamin D significantly increases serum 25(OH)D levels relative to placebo, there is no evidence either in predialysis CKD or in ESRD that parathyroid hormone (PTH) is lowered; (ii) on the other hand, in randomized head-to-head comparisons, nutritional vitamin D is shown to be inferior to activated vitamin D analogs in reducing PTH levels; (iii) nutritional vitamin D is reported to exert minimal to no beneficial actions in a series of surrogate risk factors, including aortic stiffness, left ventricular mass index (LVMI), epoetin utilization and immune function among others; and (iv) there is no evidence to support a benefit of nutritional vitamin D on survival and other 'hard' clinical outcomes. Whereas nutritional vitamin D replacement may restore 25(OH)D concentration to near normal, the real target of treating vitamin D insufficiency is to treat secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is untouched by nutritional vitamin D. Furthermore, the pleotropic benefits of nutritional vitamin D remain to be proven. Thus, there is little, if any, benefit of nutritional vitamin D replacement in CKD.

Keywords: CKD; cholecalciferol; nutritional vitamin D; secondary hyperparathyroidism.

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications*
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / etiology
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D