Low Vitamin D strongly connected to kidney failure in African Americans

November 04, 2009

Michal Melamed, MD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his colleagues report a strong association between end stage renal disease (ESRD or kidney failure) in Africa Americans and low levels of active vitamin D. Kidney failure disproportionately affects African Americans and this is largely attributable to a greater prevalence of high blood pressure and diabetes in this population; research indicates that low levels of Vitamin D are also tied to the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

The researchers evaluated data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The level of Vitamin D in its active form was checked in the serum of 13,328 men and women. Medicare data identified those who eventually required dialysis for end stage renal disease.

Thirty-four percent of African Americans had deficient 25-hydroxyvitamin D (active form of Vitamin D) levels of less than 15 nanograms per milliliter. "We found that the participants with the lowest [active vitamin D] levels were 2.6 times as likely to end up on dialysis compared to those with higher levels," Dr Melamed stated. "We found that 25(OH)D deficiency was responsible for about 58 percent of the excess risk for ESRD experienced by African Americans."

"Our study adds to previous evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to the progression of kidney disease and the need for dialysis," he noted. It also explains a fair amount of the increased risk of ESRD in African Americans. The study is published in the December, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology .