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The causal role of circulating vitamin D concentrations in human complex traits and diseases: a large-scale Mendelian randomization study

By Xia Jiang, Tian Ge, Chia-Yen Chen

Posted 21 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/677922

Vitamin D has been associated with a variety of human complex traits and diseases in observational studies, but a causal relationship remains unclear. To examine a putative causal effect of vitamin D across phenotypic domains and disease categories, we conducted Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses using genetic instruments associated with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations. We leveraged genome-wide significant 25(OH)D-associated SNPs (N=138) from a meta-analysis combining a vitamin D GWAS conducted in 401,460 white British UK Biobank (UKBB) participants and an independent vitamin D GWAS including 42,274 samples of European ancestry, and examined 190 large-scale health-related GWAS spanning a broad spectrum of complex traits, diseases and biomarkers. We applied multiple MR methods to estimate the causal effect of vitamin D while testing and controlling for potential biases from horizontal pleiotropy. Consistent with previous findings, genetically predicted increased 25(OH)D levels significantly decreased the risk of multiple sclerosis (OR=0.824; 95%CI=0.689-0.986). The protective effect estimate was consistent across different MR methods and four different multiple sclerosis GWAS with varying sample sizes and genotyping platforms. On the contrary, we found limited evidence in support of a causal effect of 25(OH)D on anthropometric traits, obesity, cognitive function, sleep behavior, breast and prostate cancer, and autoimmune, cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological and psychiatric traits and diseases, and blood biomarkers. Our results may inform ongoing and future randomized clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation.

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