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, 2 (2), 153-64

Vitamin D Nutrition and Bone Disease in Adults


Vitamin D Nutrition and Bone Disease in Adults

E B Mawer et al. Rev Endocr Metab Disord.


The consequences of vitamin D deficiency upon the skeleton are well known and management in the absence of renal failure is relatively straightforward. Vitamin D, either by mouth or parenterally will correct the deficiency and heal the osteomalacia. The mechanisms underlying the causation of vitamin D deficiency are now better understood and indicate the importance of underlying calcium malabsorption and secondary hyperparathyroidism leading to 1,25(OH)2D-induced catabolism of 25(OH)D and possibly also of vitamin D itself. In such situations, e.g., gastrointestinal and pancreaticobiliary disease, calcium supplementation in addition to vitamin D is indicated. The reasons behind nutritional vitamin D deficiency and the possible role of meat in protecting from osteomalacia await further elucidation, but from epidemiological studies, calcium deficiency, per se, is not implicated in the etiopathogenesis. The concept of vitamin D insufficiency is poorly understood, and difficult to define since a single value or close range of serum 25(OH)D values is unlikely to predict the needs of all subjects. Oral calcium intake and renal function are also likely to be relevant to the level of 25(OH)D which is found to be sufficient or insufficient for any given individual to maintain a normal serum calcium level without secondary hyperparathyroidism. There is increasing evidence that vitamin D insufficiency, by leading to sustained hyperparathyroidism, is prejudicial to the skeleton, particularly cortical bone. Since it is without symptoms until fractures occur, it should be actively sought in those clinical situations now recognized as contributing to risk. It can only be identified by the periodic measurement of serum 25(OH)D and the calcitropic hormones PTH and 1,25(OH)2D. In addition, BMD should be measured in a predominantly cortical site such as the proximal forearm, as well as the more conventional sites of spine and hip. The implications of these recommendations are an increase in the use of assays for PTH and vitamin D metabolites in the groups of subjects discussed in this review. Patients with chronic malabsorption states might reasonably be expected to have measurements performed twice-yearly. When vitamin D insufficiency is found, treatment with either vitamin D, calcium or both will be necessary, depending on the etiology of the insufficiency state in the inividual. In some malabsorptive states, calcium malabsorption is the cause of hyperparathyroidism and oral calcium alone can be used to reverse excess PTH activity in those with an adequate state of vitamin D nutrition. However, even in those vitamin D replete individuals, vitamin D catabolism will be enhanced and a small additional oral dose of vitamin D can do no harm. Regular monitoring of PTH and vitamin D metabolites will remain a necessity to ensure continued efficacy of treatment. Current recommendations for dietary supplements of vitamin D are clearly inadequate [61]. There is compelling evidence for supplements of 800 IU per day in the elderly and other high risk populations. Such a dose is safe and without side effects. The available evidence suggests that this should be combined with calcium supplements of 1200 mg/day [19] and that the current UK recommendations for a daily calcium intake of 700 mg contrast with those from the USA at 1,200 mg for people over 50 years old. Physicians need to be aware of both the small but important problem of vitamin D depletion and osteomalacia with its sometimes ambiguous presentation, and the more common but covert vitamin D (and calcium) insufficiency with its widespread and varied clinical associations.

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