Public Release: 

Nutritional vitamin D supplements do not help treat anemia in dialysis patients

American Society of Nephrology


  • Vitamin D2 supplements taken for 6 months did not reduce dialysis patients' need for anemia drugs that stimulate red blood cell production.

  • Anemia commonly arises in patients with chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.

Washington, DC (December 17, 2015) -- There is no role for nutritional vitamin D supplements in treating anemia in patients on hemodialysis, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).

Nutritional vitamin D may have numerous functions in the body, outside of bone, and vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Preliminary evidence suggests that nutritional vitamin D supplementation may benefit dialysis patients by enhancing blood cell production, or erythropoiesis. This would be beneficial because many individuals with kidney dysfunction develop anemia, or low red blood cell levels.

In the largest randomized clinical trial to date on the effects of nutritional vitamin D in dialysis patients, Dana Miskulin, MD (Tufts Medical Center) and her colleagues found that vitamin D2 supplements taken for 6 months did not reduce dialysis patients' need for drugs that stimulate red blood cell production.

"This study also did not find an effect of supplementing hemodialysis patients with nutritional vitamin D on several other secondary outcomes including parathyroid hormone levels, inflammatory markers, infection, or cardiovascular events, though the statistical power for these clinical outcomes was limited," said Dr. Miskulin. The trial included 276 patients who were randomized to 6 months of vitamin D2 or placebo.


Study authors include Karen Majchrzak, MS, Hocine Tighiouart, MS, Richard Muther, MD, Toros Kapoian, MD, Doug Johnson, MD, and Daniel Weiner, MD.

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures. The trial was sponsored and conducted by Dialysis Clinic Inc, a not for profit dialysis provider

The article, entitled "Ergocalciferol Supplementation in Hemodialysis Patients With Vitamin D Deficiency: A Randomized Clinical Trial," will appear online at on December 17, 2015. doi:10.1681/ASN.2015040468

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Founded in 1966, and with nearly 16,000 members, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) leads the fight against kidney disease by educating health professionals, sharing new knowledge, advancing research, and advocating the highest quality care for patients.

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