Objective: Measurement of plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) level is often used to evaluate a patient's vitamin D status. The purpose of this study was to investigate the variability in individual plasma 25OHD- and vitamin D-binding protein- (Gc) levels over a 5-year period in postmenopausal women with and without hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Material and methods: A total of 187 women were followed-up for 5 years. At baseline, 89 women were allocated to treatment with HRT, given orally. Measurements were performed at baseline and after 1, 2 and 5 years of follow-up.
Results: At baseline, 25OHD levels were positively associated with sunbathing and use of vitamin D supplements, and inversely associated with smoking. HRT therapy increased plasma levels of Gc (+8 %) but did not affect 25OHD levels or the free 25OHD index (molar ratio of 25OHD- to Gc levels). Among those classified in the lowest 25OHD tertile at baseline, 40 % remained in the lowest tertile during all subsequent measurement time-points. Similarly, 32 % of those classified in the highest baseline tertile remained in the highest tertile during all subsequent measurements. Use of the free 25OHD index showed similar results. No independent predictors of changes in vitamin D tertiles during follow-up were identified, which suggests that the observed variation was caused by the intra-individual variation in measured parameters. For all participants, the within-patient variability in 25OHD measurements was between 13 % and 19 %.
Conclusions: In healthy postmenopausal women, HRT increases Gc levels. Owing to the high intra-individual variation in plasma 25OHD, it seems questionable to use a single estimate as a predictor of individual vitamin D status.