Background: Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a high prevalence of osteoporosis. A number of studies have found that corticosteroid use is associated with the development of osteoporosis in these patients. Calcium supplementation may be of benefit in corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis and calcium may be a nutrient that patients with IBD lack.
Aim: To test the benefit of calcium supplementation on bone density in a pilot study over a 1-year period, in a group of corticosteroid-using patients with IBD, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment study.
Methods: Corticosteroid-using patients with IBD including males over the age of 18 years and premenopausal females, were randomized to receive either calcium carbonate 1000 mg plus vitamin D 250 IU (Oscal) or an identically matched placebo. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry measurements of bone density were obtained at entry and at 1 year. At entry, and every 3 months thereafter, serum was collected for the measurement of haemoglobin, biochemistry and bone hormones. Simultaneously a 24-h urine collection was analysed for calcium excretion and creatinine clearance, and a 4-day food record was collected to document dietary calcium and vitamin D ingestion.
Results: We found a high prevalence of moderately severe decreased bone density in corticosteroid-using patients with IBD. The dose of prednisone in the year prior to study entry was inversely correlated with bone density at the hip (R = -0.67, P = 0.004). At study entry serum osteocalcin was inversely correlated with corticosteroid dose in the year prior to the study (R = -0.64, P = 0.02) and at study end, directly correlated with the percentage change in spine bone density (R = 0.59, P = 0.01). The dietary calcium intake of these patients was close to the current RDA (recommended daily intake) for premenopausal, post-adolescent adults. Calcium supplementation with small extra doses of vitamin D conferred no obvious benefit to bone density at the end of 1 year. There was no correlation between oral calcium ingestion and bone mass measurements. Both the treatment and placebo groups' bone density remained relatively stable at 1 year, suggesting that bone loss in corticosteroid-using patients may peak early into the use of the corticosteroids.
Conclusions: Calcium supplementation (1000 mg/day) conferred no significant benefit to bone density at 1 year in patients with corticosteroid-using IBD patients with osteoporosis. Future investigations should explore other therapeutic avenues that may have greater effects on increasing bone density in patients who already have considerable osteoporosis.