Vitamin D supplementation for sickle cell disease

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 May 28;5(5):CD010858. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010858.pub3.


Background: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic chronic haemolytic and pro-inflammatory disorder. With increased catabolism and deficits in energy and nutrient intake, individuals with SCD suffer multiple macro- and micro-nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin D deficiency. This is an update of a previous review.

Objectives: To investigate the effects of vitamin D supplementation in children and adults with SCD and to compare different dose regimens. To determine the effects of vitamin D supplementation on general health (e.g. growth status and health-related quality of life), on musculoskeletal health (including bone mineral density, pain crises, bone fracture and muscle health), on respiratory health (including lung function, acute chest syndrome, acute exacerbation of asthma and respiratory infections) and the safety of vitamin D supplementation.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register, compiled from electronic database searches and handsearching of journals and conference abstract books. Date of last search: 19 March 2020. We also searched database such as PubMed, clinical trial registries and the reference lists of relevant articles and reviews. Date of last search: 14 January 2020.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs comparing oral administration of any form of vitamin D supplementation at any dose and for any duration to another type or dose of vitamin D or placebo or no supplementation in people with SCD, of all ages, gender, and phenotypes.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently extracted the data and assessed the risk of bias of the included studies. They used the GRADE guidelines to assess the quality of the evidence.

Main results: Vitamin D versus placebo One double-blind RCT (n = 39) compared oral vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplementation (20 participants) to placebo (19 participants) for six weeks. Only 25 participants completed the full six months of follow-up. The study had a high risk of bias due to incomplete outcome data, but a low risk of bias for randomisation, allocation concealment, blinding (of participants, personnel and outcome assessors) and selective outcome reporting; and an unclear risk of other biases. Vitamin D supplementation probably led to higher serum 25(OH)D levels at eight weeks, mean difference (MD) 29.79 (95% confidence interval (CI) 26.63 to 32.95); at 16 weeks, MD 12.67 (95% CI 10.43 to 14.90); and at 24 weeks, MD 15.52 (95% CI 13.50 to 17.54) (moderate-quality evidence). There was little or no difference in adverse events (tingling of lips or hands) between the vitamin D and placebo groups, risk ratio 3.16 (95% CI 0.14 to 72.84) (low-quality evidence). Vitamin D supplementation probably caused fewer pain days compared to the placebo group at eight weeks, MD -10.00 (95% CI -16.47 to -3.53) (low-quality evidence), but probably led to a lower (worse) health-related quality of life score (change from baseline in physical functioning PedsQL scores); at both 16 weeks, MD -12.56 (95% CI -16.44 to -8.69) and 24 weeks, MD -12.59 (95% CI -17.43 to -7.76), although this may not be the case at eight weeks (low-quality evidence). Vitamin D supplementation regimens compared Two double-blind RCTs (83 participants) compared different regimens of vitamin D. One RCT (n = 62) compared oral vitamin D3 7000 IU/day to 4000 IU/day for 12 weeks, while the second RCT (n = 21) compared oral vitamin D3 100,000 IU/month to 12,000 IU/month for 24 months. Both RCTs had low risk of bias for blinding (of participants, personnel and outcome assessors) and incomplete outcome data, but the risk of selective outcome reporting bias was high. The bias from randomisation and allocation concealment was low in one study but not in the second. There was an unclear risk of other biases. When comparing oral vitamin D 100,000 IU/month to 12,000 IU/month, the higher dose may have resulted in higher serum 25(OH)D levels at one year, MD 16.40 (95% CI 12.59 to 20.21) and at two years, MD 18.96 (95% CI 15.20 to 22.72) (low-quality evidence). There was little or no difference in adverse events between doses (low-quality evidence). There were more episodes of acute chest syndrome in the high-dose group, at one year, MD 0.27 (95% CI 0.02 to 0.52) but there was little or no difference at two years, MD 0.09 (95% CI -0.04 to 0.22) (moderate-quality evidence). At one year and two years there was also little or no difference between the doses in the presence of pain (moderate-quality evidence) or forced expiratory volume in one second % predicted. However, the high-dose group had lower values for % predicted forced vital capacity at both one and two years, MD -7.20% predicted (95% CI -14.15 to -0.25) and MD -7.10% predicted (95% CI -14.03 to -0.17), respectively. There were little or no differences between dose regimens in the muscle health of either hand or the dominant hand. The study comparing oral vitamin D3 7000 IU/day to 4000 IU/day (21 participants) did not provide data for analysis, but median serum 25(OH)D levels were reported to be lower in the low-dose group at both six and 12 weeks. At 12 weeks the median serum parathyroid hormone level was lower in the high-dose group.

Authors' conclusions: We included three RCTs of varying quality. We consider that the current evidence presented in this review is not of sufficient quality to guide clinical practice. Until further evidence becomes available, clinicians should consider the relevant existing guidelines for vitamin D supplementation and dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Well-designed RCTs of parallel design, are required to determine the effects and the safety of vitamin D supplementation as well as to assess the relative benefits of different doses in children and adults with SCD.

Trial registration: NCT03417947.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / blood*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications*
  • Bias
  • Child
  • Cholecalciferol / administration & dosage*
  • Cholecalciferol / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Time Factors
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / adverse effects
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / therapy


  • Vitamin D
  • Cholecalciferol

Associated data