Advances in the understanding of mineral and bone metabolism in inflammatory bowel diseases

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2011 Feb;300(2):G191-201. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00496.2010. Epub 2010 Nov 18.


Chronic inflammatory disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) affect bone metabolism and are frequently associated with the presence of osteopenia, osteoporosis, and increased risk of fractures. Although several mechanisms may contribute to skeletal abnormalities in IBD patients, inflammation and inflammatory mediators such as TNF, IL-1β, and IL-6 may be the most critical. It is not clear whether the changes in bone metabolism leading to decreased mineral density are the result of decreased bone formation, increased bone resorption, or both, with varying results reported in experimental models of IBD and in pediatric and adult IBD patients. New data, including our own, challenge the conventional views, and contributes to the unraveling of an increasingly complex network of interactions leading to the inflammation-associated bone loss. Since nutritional interventions (dietary calcium and vitamin D supplementation) are of limited efficacy in IBD patients, understanding the pathophysiology of osteopenia and osteoporosis in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is critical for the correct choice of available treatments or the development of new targeted therapies. In this review, we discuss current concepts explaining the effects of inflammation, inflammatory mediators and their signaling effectors on calcium and phosphate homeostasis, osteoblast and osteoclast function, and the potential limitations of vitamin D used as an immunomodulator and anabolic hormone in IBD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / etiology
  • Calcification, Physiologic*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / complications
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / metabolism*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology
  • Crohn Disease / complications
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism*
  • Crohn Disease / pathology
  • Gastroenterology / trends*
  • Homeostasis
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / metabolism
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Metabolism
  • Osteoblasts
  • Osteoclasts
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use


  • Hormones
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Phosphates
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium