Background: Age-related osteoporosis may be associated with inefficient intestinal calcium absorption and bone remodeling.
Objective: We investigated the pathogenesis of age-related osteoporosis in Chinese women with habitual low calcium intakes.
Design: We studied the response of intestinal calcium absorption, calcitropic hormones, and biochemical bone markers to graded dietary calcium deprivation.
Results: The osteoporotic subjects (n = 25) had higher urinary calcium excretion (P < 0.05) and lower plasma 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D concentrations (P < 0.02) than did age-matched control women (n = 25). Parathyroid hormone was not significantly different from that in age-matched control women but was significantly higher than in young women (n = 15, P < 0.05). Fractional 45Ca absorption was approximately 61% in all 3 groups when the diet was unmodified and increased to 71%, 69%, and 68% in the osteoporotic subjects, age-matched control women, and young women, respectively, when dietary calcium was reduced to 300 mg/d. When the osteoporotic women were calcium deprived, serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D failed to increase but urinary calcium excretion persisted. In contrast, supplementation with 1200 mg Ca resulted in a lowering of parathyroid hormone (P < 0.005 compared with the unmodified diet) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (P < 0.01) and decreased fractional 45Ca absorption (P < 0.01), suggesting that the increased calcium intake was associated with a potent compensatory ability of the intestine and calcitropic hormones to adapt. Calcium supplementation lowered osteocalcin (P < 0.05) but not alkaline phosphatase, which remained elevated in the osteoporotic subjects at all stages.
Conclusions: Elderly osteoporotic women had reduced 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D production, excessive urinary calcium loss, and high bone turnover. The Chinese women had exceptionally potent intestinal calcium absorption.