Effect of low-dose prednisone (with calcium and calcitriol supplementation) on calcium and bone metabolism in healthy volunteers

Br J Rheumatol. 1998 Jan;37(1):27-33. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/37.1.27.


The administration of moderate to high doses of corticosteroids is associated with bone loss. This probably results from the uncoupling of bone formation (decreased) and bone resorption (unchanged or increased). We examined the effect of low-dose (10 mg/day) prednisone (LDP) and the possible mitigating effects of calcium and 1.25 (OH)2 vitamin D (calcitriol) on calcium and bone metabolism in eight healthy, young male volunteers. The study consisted of four observation periods: in the first period, LDP was prescribed during 1 week; in the second, third and fourth periods, calcium (500 mg/day), calcitriol (0.5 micrograms b.i.d.) and calcium in combination with calcitriol, respectively, were added to LDP. Bone formation was measured by means of serum osteocalcin, carboxy-terminal propeptide of type 1 procollagen (P1CP) and alkaline phosphatase, bone resorption by means of urinary excretion of calcium, hydroxyproline, (free and total) pyridinoline, (free and total) deoxypyridinoline and serum carboxy-terminal cross-linked telopeptide of type 1 collagen (1CTP). Dietary calcium and sodium intake were maintained at a stable level during the entire study period. Treatment with LDP led to a decrease in osteocalcin, P1CP and alkaline phosphatase (all P < 0.01). Urinary excretion of pyridinolines, hydroxyproline and serum 1CTP did not increase, but remained unchanged or slightly reduced (P < 0.05), depending on the time of measurement and the marker of bone resorption. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) (insignificantly) increased during LDP (+19%) and LDP plus calcium (+14%), but decreased during supplementation with calcitriol (-16%) and calcium/calcitriol (-44%; P < 0.01). Urinary excretion of calcium increased during treatment with LDP and calcitriol (P < 0.05) and calcium/calcitriol (P < 0.05). It is concluded that LDP has a negative effect on bone metabolism, since bone formation decreased while bone resorption remained unchanged or decreased slightly. The increase in PTH during LDP could be prevented by calcitriol combined with calcium supplementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcitriol / administration & dosage
  • Calcium / administration & dosage
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteocalcin / blood
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Peptide Fragments / blood
  • Prednisone / administration & dosage*
  • Procollagen / blood


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Procollagen
  • procollagen type I carboxy terminal peptide
  • Osteocalcin
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Calcitriol
  • Calcium
  • Prednisone