Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation for Osteopenia.
Osteopenia is a condition where bone mineral density (BMD) is lower than
normal. It is considered by many doctors to be a precursor to osteoporosis.
However, not every person diagnosed with osteopenia will develop
osteoporosis. Like osteoporosis, osteopenia occurs more frequently in
post-menopausal women as a result of the loss of estrogen. It can also be
exacerbated by lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, excess
consumption of alcohol, smoking or prolonged use of glucocorticoid medications such as those prescribed for asthma.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. Average healthy
males have about two and a half to three pounds of calcium while females
have about two pounds. Approximately 99 percent of calcium is present in
the bones and teeth, which leaves only about one percent in cells and body
fluids. While the most important function of calcium involves the
maintenance of skeletal health, the small percentage of calcium outside the
bones is used to maintain a variety of vital body functions.
Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine" vitamin because it is formed in the
body by the action of the sun's ultraviolet rays on the skin. The
fat-soluble vitamin is converted in the kidneys to the hormone calcitrol,
which is actually the most active form of vitamin D. The effects of this
hormone are targeted at the intestines and bones. Decreased vitamin D
intake along with not enough sunlight exposure can cause a vitamin D
deficiency. Other causes could be inadequate absorption and impaired
conversion of vitamin D into its active form. When vitamin D deficiency
occurs, bone mineralization is impaired which leads to bone loss. Rickets,
osteomalacia, osteoporosis, crohn's disease and cancer are associated with
vitamin D deficiency.
The purpose of a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition was
to assess the effectiveness of calcium and vitamin D supplementation
combined with fortified dairy products on bone metabolism in postmenopausal
women. Researchers recruited forty osteopenic postmenopausal women between
the ages of 55-65 years old who were randomly assigned to a control group
or a dietary group (DG) receiving 1,200 mg of calcium and 7.5 micrograms of
vitamin D3 daily for the first 12 months and then increased vitamin D3 to
22.5 micrograms for the remaining 18 months. Results were after 30 months
of intervention, serum vitamin D levels were significantly lower in the
control group while the DG remained at the same high levels as in the
summer period. Results also showed that serum RANKL levels (receptor
activator linked to bone weakening) were significantly reduced in the DG
compared to the control group. The authors concluded "Increasing dietary
intake of calcium and vitamin D in osteopenic postmenopausal women appears
to be effective in producing favorable changes in several bone metabolism
and bone mass indices and in counterbalancing seasonal variations in
hormonal and biochemical molecules."1
Tenta R, Moschonis G, Koutsilieris M, et al. Calcium and vitamin D
supplementation through fortified dairy products counterbalances seasonal
variations of bone metabolism indices: the Postmenopausal Health Study. Eur
J Nutr. Dec2010.
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Source: European Journal of Nutrition 2/18/2011
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