Volume 11 · Nº 1 Supl · May 2019
- Myths, stories and legends about calcium and vitamin D [1-7]
- Recommendations of scientific societies on calcium and vitamin D supplementation in osteoporosis [8-12]
- The role of calcium and vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis [13-17]
- Role of calcium and vitamin D in treating hip fracture patients [18-22]
- Self assessment test: Correct answers [23-24]
In recent years there has been an impressive increase in the number of scientific articles related to the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D. We have gained a much deeper knowledge of many patho-physiological aspects. However, and in spite of this, a series of fraudulence, myths and legends have been developed in parallel on both calcium and vitamin D, many of them absolutely unjustified, and others derived from a misunderstanding of some scientific articles. Since this can lead to the abandonment of treatments or taking them in the wrong way, we have developed this article in order to clarify, with scientific evidence, some of these aspects.
Review of the physiology of calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium absorption depends on vitamin D and is a saturable mechanism. From a certain amount and reach the optimum level of absorption, all calcium that is ingested is not absorbed and is eliminated by feces.
Between 100 and 200 mg of calcium are removed by the kidney on a daily basis under normal conditions. Also, between 800 to 900 mg of calcium is lost by stool, as a result of the secretion of bile salts and pancreatic juices. These are known as “mandatory calcium losses” and together they constitute about 1,000 mg (Figure 1). Calcium cannot be synthesized by any metabolic route and, therefore, must be taken by diet .
Calcium and vitamin D requirements for health in general and bone in particular are well established. While the medical community recommends maintaining serum levels of 25 hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D) above at least 20 ng/ml, the calcemia should remain between 8.5 and 10.5 mg/dl. However, these amounts, which should be obtained naturally from diet (calcium) and sun exposure (vitamin D), are not attained by a high percentage of the population.
Calcium levels, so essential for the operation of multiple systems, are maintained thanks to the store that constitutes the bone. From this, the body obtains calcium to maintain its homeostasis if necessary, to the detriment, obviously, of the bone itself, which undergoes an increased resorption that, in turn, produces osteoporosis.
Vitamin D, for its part, lacking a storage system, sees its serum levels fall as sun exposure decreases. We know that the foods richest in calcium are dairy. The intake of these foods is very low in the general population, for different reasons. Furthermore, the risk of skin cancer causes sun exposure to be avoided “drastically”, which prevents vitamin D production. Calcium and vitamin D supplements help people reach the appropriate levels in these situations and shore up deficiencies.
In this paper, we will discuss the recommendations made in various clinical guidelines. These are selective, given the limited space, but we believe they are representative and shed light on the usefulness of giving calcium and vitamin D supplements for the treatment of osteoporosis or to ensure bone health . The approach that different societies and institutions have made varies from the one carried out in the framework of the general treatment of osteoporosis to the specific one of such supplements, either only of vitamin D, of calcium alone, or of both.
The role of calcium and vitamin D in bone metabolism has been known for many years. Calcium is one of the main components of bone and, together with the collagen matrix, it is responsible for facilitating the strength and resistance of the skeleton .
The maximum bone mass is acquired by 30 years of age and depends on genetic and environmental factors, including calcium intake. Once the bone mass peak is achieved, it is necessary to maintain a minimum calcium intake to avoid bone loss.
Vitamin D is responsible for maintaining calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, favoring its reabsorption at the renal and intestinal levels. Its deficit is associated with an alteration of bone mineralization, causing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Osteoporosis is a prevalent chronic process. It poses a public health problem associated with significant morbidity and mortality . With the aging of the population its prevalence is expected to increase . Physical activity and proper nutrition are two measures associated with a reducted risk of osteoporosis . Adequate calcium intake, together with sufficient levels of vitamin D, have proven to be a good option to maintain a healthy bone state .
The proximal femur fracture, or hip fracture, is the most serious complication of osteoporosis, due to its high mortality and morbidity, as well as the significant social, economic and welfare cost it entails. In fact, the hip fracture is capable, on its own, of decreasing life expectancy in almost two years and one in five patients who suffer from it will require permanent health care . Risk factors that favor this type of fracture include a greater tendency to fall and a decrease in bone resistance.
Since the discovery of vitamin D in 1922, it has been associated not only with bone health but also with muscle health . Therefore, and although there is no evidence that determines its effectiveness, calcium and vitamin D administration is recommended for every patient with osteoporosis, to avoid their deficiency, which may be harmful. Thus, in most clinical practice guidelines, treatment with antiresorptive or anabolic drugs must be accompanied by an adequate intake of vitamin D, in addition to an appropriate amount of calcium, which usually ranges between 1,000 and 1,200 mg daily [3-5].
Myths, stories and legends about calcium and vitamin D
Sosa Henríquez M, Gómez de Tejada Romero MJ
1. The mandatory calcium losses are:
d. Urine and feces about 1,000 mg daily
Compulsory calcium losses are estimated at about 1,000 mg daily, of which around 200 mg is due to calciuria and the remaining 800 mg due to fecal losses, due to calcium contained in pancreatic juices and calcium ingested and not absorbed.
2. A woman after menopause is advised to ingest daily:
d. 1,500 mg of calcium
In menopause, daily calcium recommendations have been estimated at 1,500 mg daily by the National Health Institute (NIH).