Vitamin D and bone health in postmenopausal women

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003 Mar;12(2):151-6. doi: 10.1089/154099903321576547.


Osteoporosis, a disease of increased skeletal fragility, is becoming increasingly common as the U.S. population ages. Adequate vitamin D and calcium intake is the cornerstone of osteoporosis prevention and treatment. Age-related changes in vitamin D and calcium metabolism increase the risk of vitamin D insufficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism. Although longitudinal data have suggested a role of vitamin D intake in modulating bone loss in perimenopausal women, studies of vitamin D and calcium supplementation have failed to support a significant effect of vitamin D and calcium during early menopause. There is a clearer benefit in vitamin D and calcium supplementation in older postmenopausal women. Vitamin D intake between 500 and 800 IU daily, with or without calcium supplementation, has been shown to increase bone mineral density (BMD) in women with a mean age of approximately 63 years. In women older than 65, there is even more benefit with vitamin D intakes of between 800 and 900 IU daily and 1200-1300 mg of calcium daily, with increased bone density, decreased bone turnover, and decreased nonvertebral fractures. The decreases in nonvertebral fractures may also be influenced by vitamin D-mediated decreases in body sway and fall risk. There are insufficient available data supporting a benefit from vitamin D supplementation alone, without calcium, to prevent osteoporotic fracture in postmenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium