Alone, low vitamin D counts may not indicate need to test for osteoporosis

While countless health authorities recommend regularly consuming vitamin D in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a group of British scientists has released findings indicating that on its own, a deficiency of the nutrient may not be enough to merit a bone scan.

An abstract published in the journal Rheumatology concluded as much, based on research conducted at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

The report did not dispute the role of vitamin D in preventing or slowing the onset of osteomalacia - a softening of the bones that is commonly called rickets - but its authors did note that there is mixed evidence about the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and the presence of osteoporosis, at least when low levels of the nutrient are a patient's only risk factor.

The group determined as much after testing the bone densities of 70 women referred for dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans based on insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood - less than 48 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) of blood.

This cutoff is slightly at odds with the guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, which defines a deficiency of vitamin D as being below 30 nmol/L and moderate risk of insufficiency being between 30 and 50 nmol/L.

All of the study's participants displayed no other risk factors for osteoporosis. After conducting DXA scans, the team found that the women's overall bone density scores were not significantly lower than a control group.

Researchers even noted that otherwise asymptomatic patients with very low vitamin D levels - less than 20 nmol/L - tended to display little reduction in bone density. The group concluded that vitamin D deficiency alone may not be enough to merit a DXA exam for osteoporosis.

Regardless, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that adults age 50 or older take between 800 and 1,000 international units of vitamin D each day in order to slow the onset of progressive bone loss. 
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