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Kidney Int. 2005 Nov;68(5):1973-81.

Vitamin D and its analogues: do they protect against cardiovascular disease in patients with kidney disease?

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  • 1Division of Nephrology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. alevin@providencehealth.bc.ca



Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, and despite recent advances in hypertension control, anemia management, and dialysis adequacy, mortality remains high. Improved understanding of nontraditional risk factors, including those present at early phases in CKD, may lead to novel therapeutic strategies. CKD has been demonstrated to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the general population, but data are lacking as to the associated potential abnormalities that occur in association with reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which may contribute to this increased risk. Data are accumulating regarding the role of abnormalities of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and parathyroid hormone (PTH) in cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D deficiency is present even in the early stages of CKD. Vitamin D plays a central role in calcium-phosphorus homeostasis, regulation of PTH, and formation and maintenance of bone. However, until recently, vitamin D has not been considered to have a biologic role in CKD beyond mineral regulation, or has been considered as a negative factor contributing to soft tissue and cardiovascular calcification. In light of recent observational studies showing an association of vitamin D therapy and survival benefit in hemodialysis patients, the effects of vitamin D on cardiovascular system have become a heavily debated issue.


A Medline search was performed to identify relevant literature describing the role of vitamin D in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. Both the experimental and clinical literatures in English were reviewed.


The accumulating published data demonstrate both associative relationships and mechanisms for biologic plausibility. The following three potential mechanisms may be important for the protective effects of vitamin D against cardiovascular disease mortality: vitamin D can inhibit various aspects of inflammation, which have been established as a key pathogenic mechanism in atherosclerosis; vitamin D exerts an antiproliferative effect on myocardial cell hypertrophy and proliferation, which underlies the pathogenesis of congestive heart failure; and vitamin D acts as a negative endocrine regulator for the renin-angiotensin system, which itself plays an important independent role in hypertension and cardiovascular health.


Vitamin D deficiency might be an underestimated nonclassical risk factor for cardiovascular disease in CKD. Based on a review of the evidence, from both basic science and clinical studies, this article supports the possible protective role of vitamin D beyond its effect on mineral metabolism, and suggests the need for ongoing evaluation of the role of vitamin D in cardiovascular health in the CKD population.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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