Investigating causality in the association between vitamin D status and self-reported tiredness

Alexandra Havdahl*, Ruth Mitchell, Lavinia Paternoster, George Davey Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
211 Downloads (Pure)


Self-reported tiredness or low energy, often referred to as fatigue, has been linked to low levels of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD), a biomarker of vitamin D status. Although it is uncertain if the association is causal, fatigue is a common indication for testing, and correcting, low 25OHD-levels. We used two-sample Mendelian randomization to test for genetic evidence of a causal association between low 25OHD-levels and fatigue. Genetic-25OHD associations were estimated from the largest genome-wide association study of vitamin D to date, and genetic-fatigue associations were estimated in 327,478 individuals of European descent in UK Biobank, of whom 19,526 (5.96%) reported fatigue (tiredness or low energy nearly every day over the past two weeks). Using seven genome-wide significant 25OHD-reducing genetic variants, there was little evidence for a causal effect of 25OHD on fatigue (odds ratio for fatigue was 1.05 with 95% confidence interval of 0.87–1.27 per 1-SD decrease in log-transformed 25OHD). There was also little evidence of association between any individual 25OHD-reducing variant and fatigue. Our results suggest that a clinically relevant protective effect of 25OHD-levels on fatigue is unlikely. Therefore, vitamin D supplementation of the general population to raise 25OHD-levels is not likely to be useful in preventing fatigue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2880
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2019

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