11/08/2013 04:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Low Vitamin D Could Impair Kidney Health After Transplant


By Natalie San Luis

A kidney transplant can give new hope for a healthy life to a patient with severe kidney disease. A new study suggests that getting enough of a crucial vitamin may be essential for maintaining kidney health after a transplant.

The study showed that vitamin D levels were directly related to how well patients' kidneys filtered waste out of the blood in the years after transplant surgery.

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Patients with lower levels of vitamin D were more likely to have an organ rejection.

The authors of this study suggested that kidney disease patients should consider taking vitamin D supplements if they receive a new kidney.

Yoshitsugu Obi, MD, PhD, of the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, led this study to see how vitamin D levels affected patients who had had a kidney transplant.

People who have kidney disease gradually lose function of their kidneys, which filter waste from the body. Left untreated, kidney disease can lead to heart disease, anemia (lower levels of red blood cells) and even death.

Patients with severe kidney disease often undergo a kidney transplant. This study looked at the importance of sufficient vitamin D levels for kidney transplant recipients.

A total of 264 kidney transplant recipients participated in this study.

The researchers measured the participants' vitamin D levels, rating them as either sufficient, inadequate or deficient. They also examined how well the new kidneys filtered blood each year and whether the patients' bodies rejected the new kidneys.

They also looked for a 50 percent increase in serum creatine, which would be a sign of worsening kidney function, end-stage kidney disease or death.

The researchers found that vitamin D levels were directly correlated with how well the kidney was filtering blood.

Patients with inadequate and deficient levels of vitamin D were significantly more likely to have increased serum creatine, to have end-stage kidney disease or to die. They were also more likely to experience a transplant rejection.

The effect of vitamin D on kidney transplant health was most pronounced in patients who had received their new kidneys in the previous 10 years. Vitamin D-inadequate or -deficient patients who had received transplants over 10 years before were less at risk for kidney dysfunction.

The researchers concluded that low vitamin D levels in kidney disease patients may predict negative outcomes for kidney transplants.

They suggested that vitamin D supplementation may be helpful for improving the risk of kidney rejection, dysfunction and death.

This study was presented on November 8 at the American Society of Nephrology's Kidney Week.

The researchers were each funded separately, some by pharmaceutical companies. A few of the researchers disclosed consultancy agreements or other financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.