Vitamin D deficiency is being recognized as a growing public health problem in populations at risk for osteoporosis, such as the elderly or young adults. Osteoporosis is becoming more common as the U.S. population ages. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, over 60 million Americans, 41 million of them women, will have either osteoporosis or low bone mass by the year 2020.

Researchers at Boston University reviewed the current status of vitamin D supplementation in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis for peri- and postmenopausal women. Adequate vitamin D and calcium intake is essential to the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 200 IU/day of vitamin D for women aged 50 or younger years, 400 IU/day for those aged 51-70 years, and 600 IU/day for those older than 70 years.

The effects of vitamin D and calcium supplementation appear to be maximal in the first year, after which the effect diminishes. The benefit of vitamin D and calcium supplementation in older postmenopausal women is especially clear. In women over the age of 65, there is increased risk of osteoporotic fracture of the hip and non-vertebral sites. Daily vitamin D intake between 800 and 900 IU and 1200-1300 mg of calcium for this population resulted in increased bone density, decreased bone turnover, and decreased non-vertebral fractures.

Younger postmenopausal women have also been demonstrated to benefit from vitamin D and calcium supplementation. Daily supplementation of 560-800 IU vitamin D3 and 377-1000 mg elemental calcium increases spine density and decreases bone loss at the hip. Studies have failed to support a significant effect of vitamin D and calcium during early menopause, although longitudinal data suggest a role of vitamin D intake in regulating bone loss in peri-menopausal women.

J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2003 Mar;12:2:151-6. "Vitamin D and bone health in postmenopausal women." Alan O. Malabanan, MD, and Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Checked 9/3/05

Get our newsletter