Vitamin D does not increase calcium absorption in young women: A randomized clinical trial

J. Christopher Gallagher, Prachi S. Jindal, Lynette M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


It is commonly said that vitamin D should be used to increase calcium absorption. We tested this statement in a dose-response study of vitamin D on calcium absorption. A total of 198 white and African American women, aged 25 to 45 years, with vitamin D insufficiency, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) <20ng/mL, were randomized in a double-blind study to vitamin D3 400, 800, 1600, 2400 IU, or placebo. A calcium supplement was given to increase mean calcium intake at baseline from 706mg/d to 1031mg/d. Calcium absorption was measured at baseline and after 12 months using a single isotope method with radiocalcium45 and 100mg of calcium. Mean baseline serum 25OHD was 13.4ng/mL (33.5 nmol/L) and increased to 40ng/mL (100 nmol/L) on the highest dose of 2400 IU. Using a multivariate regression analysis with significant predictors, baseline absorption, calcium intake, and weight, there was no increase in 12-month calcium absorption compared with baseline on any dose of vitamin D in either whites or African Americans. There was no significant relationship between 12-month calcium absorption and final serum 25OHD. In an analysis of calcium absorption and serum 25OHD at baseline, serum 25OHD levels were divided into groups: 0 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 15, or 16 to 20ng/mL. There was no evidence of a threshold decrease in calcium absorption or serum 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D) amongst the lowest groups. Vitamin D doses up to 2400 IU daily did not increase calcium absorption. No threshold level of serum 25OHD for calcium absorption was found at baseline or in the longitudinal study, suggesting that active transport of calcium is saturated at very low serum 25OHD levels <5ng/mL. There is no need to recommend vitamin D for increasing calcium absorption in normal subjects. Very efficient calcium absorption at very low levels of serum 25OHD explains why people do not develop osteomalacia provided that dietary intakes of calcium and phosphorus are adequate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1087
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • 25OHD
  • calcium absorption
  • vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Vitamin D does not increase calcium absorption in young women: A randomized clinical trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this