Vitamin D status in postmenopausal women living at higher latitudes in the UK in relation to bone health, overweight, sunlight exposure and dietary vitamin D

Helen M Macdonald, Alexandra Mavroeidi, Rebecca J Barr, Alison J Black, William D Fraser, David M Reid
Bone 2008, 42 (5): 996-1003
For 5 months a year the UK has insufficient sunlight for cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D and winter requirements are met from stores made the previous summer. Although there are few natural dietary sources, dietary intake may help maintain vitamin D status. We investigated the relationship between 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), bone health, overweight, sunlight exposure and dietary vitamin D in 3113 women (age 54.8 [SD 2.3] years) living at latitude 57 degrees N between 1998-2000. Serum 25(OH)D was measured by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), dietary intakes (food frequency questionnaire, n=2598), sunlight exposure (questionnaire, n=2402) and bone markers were assessed. Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by dual x-ray absorptiometry in all women at the sampling visit and 6 years before. Seasonal variation in 25(OH)D was not substantial with a peak in the autumn (23.7 [9.9] ng/ml) and a nadir in spring (19.7 [7.6] ng/ml). Daily intake of vitamin D was 4.2 [2.5] mug from food only and 5.8 [4.0] mug including vitamin D from cod liver oil and multivitamins. The latter was associated with 25(OH)D at each season whereas vitamin D simply from food was associated with 25(OH)D in winter and spring only. Sunlight exposure was associated with 25(OH)D in summer and autumn. 25(OH)D was negatively associated with increased bone resorption and bone loss (P<0.05) remaining significant after adjustment for confounders (age, weight, height, menopausal status/HRT use, physical activity and socio-economic status). Using an insufficiency cut-off of <28 ng/ml 25(OH)D, showed lower concentrations of bone resorption markers in the upper category (fDPD/Cr 5.1 [1.7] nmol/mmol compared to 5.3 [2.1] nmol/mmol, P=0.03) and no difference in BMD or bone loss. 25(OH)D was lower (P<0.01) and parathyroid hormone higher (P<0.01) in the top quintile of body mass index. In conclusion, low vitamin D status is associated with greater bone turnover, bone loss and obesity. Diet appears to attenuate the seasonal variation of vitamin D status in early postmenopausal women at northerly latitude where quality of sunlight for production of vitamin D is diminished.

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