The effect of vitamin D on calcium absorption in older women

J. Christopher Gallagher, Vinod Yalamanchili, Lynette M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Context: Vitamin D is often recommended for use with calcium supplements to increase absorption. There are no systematic studies of vitamin D on calcium absorption that indicate what dose should be recommended. Objective: Our objective was to study the effect of increasing doses of vitamin D3 on calcium absorption. Design and Setting: We conducted a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial at Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha, NE. Participants: Participants included 163 postmenopausal Caucasian women with vitamin D insufficiency, defined as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) below 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/liter). Intervention: Participants were randomized to receive one of the vitamin D3 doses, 400, 800, 1600, 2400, 3200, 4000, or 4800 IU/d, or placebo for 1 yr. Calcium intake was increased to 1200-1400 mg daily by giving daily calcium citrate. Main Outcome: We evaluated the change in calcium absorption on vitamin D. Results: Mean serum 25OHD increased from baseline 15.6 ng/ml (39 nmol/liter) to 46.5 ng/ml (112 nmol/liter) in subjects randomized to the highest dose of vitamin D (4800 IU). Calcium absorption was more significantly related to serum 25OHD (R2 = 0.50; P = 0.001) than dose (R2 = 0.47; P = 0.033). Calcium absorption of a 100-mg dose increased from 52-58% (6 mg) over a serum 25OHD range of 20-66 ng/ml (50-165 nmol/liter). Conclusions: There was no evidence of a threshold for reduced calcium absorption in the serum 25OHD range of 10-66 ng/ml (25-165 nmol/liter). The increase in absorbed calcium of 6% on high doses of vitaminDis so small that the same amount could be obtained from half a glass of milk (100 ml) or 100 mg elemental calcium. The results challenge assumptions about the value of adding vitamin D to increase calcium absorption except when serum 25OHD is very low that is less than 10 ng/ml (25 nmol/liter).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3550-3556
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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