~ Half of Women Treated with Osteoporosis Drugs May Have Insufficient Vitamin D Levels

August 22, 2005

Research conducted by Michael F Holick, MD, PhD, of Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues has found that women being treated for osteoporosis have low levels of vitamin D, a nutrient that is necessary for adequate bone mineralization. The study was published in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (http://jcem.endojournals.org/).

Dr Holick and colleagues recruited 1,536 women from 61 study sites who had been taking osteoporosis medications for a minimum of three months. Participants were allowed to have used vitamin D supplements, but were excluded if they had recently decreased or increased the amount taken.

All participants received medical examinations during which they were questioned concerning medication and supplement intake, and blood samples were drawn and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (the active vitamin D metabolite) levels measured.

Fifty-two percent of the women were found to have inadequate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, defined as less than 30 nanograms per milliliter. Eighteen percent had levels even lower, at 20 nanograms per milliliter or below.

Sixty-three percent of women who reported an intake of 400 international units or less of supplemental vitamin D had inadequate vitamin D levels compared to 45 percent of those whose intake was 400 international units or greater. The absence of prior discussion with a physician concerning vitamin D's importance to bone health was also associated with lower levels of the vitamin.

The authors write that although the study was conducted during winter when vitamin D levels are usually lower, even with adequate sun exposure during summer and fall the public is still at risk for low levels of the vitamin because its half life is only two weeks. They recommend greater education concerning improving vitamin D status in women with osteoporosis.

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