Role of Ca(2+) and vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis

Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Jan;93(1):37-49. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(02)00164-x.


Osteoporosis is defined as a progressive systemic skeletal disease characterised by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture. The clinical relevance of osteoporosis derives from the fractures that it produces. More than one-third of the adult women will suffer one or more osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime. The lifetime risk in men is approximately one-half that in women. The decrease of the bone mineral density is the most important cause of risk fracture. Among other factors, Ca(2+) and vitamin D deficiencies are important risk factors for a decrease in bone mineral density, consequently inducing osteoporosis. The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in healthy elderly people living mainly in southern European countries increase the risk of osteoporotic fractures in these populations above those anticipated for the general elderly population of the European community. In addition, the ageing of the European population will double the number of osteoporotic fractures over the next 50 years, unless adequate preventative measures are undertaken. The efficacy and safety of Ca(2+) and vitamin D supplements at preventing bone loss and reducing the risk of hip and other fractures have been assessed in different clinical trials, which are extensively discussed in this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Calcium / pharmacokinetics
  • Calcium / pharmacology*
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Hip Fractures / etiology*
  • Hip Fractures / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin D / pharmacokinetics
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology*
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium