Vitamin D and Bone Health in Lupus: New Study Questions the Effectiveness of Supplementation
In a recent study looking at the relationship between vitamin D supplementation in people with lupus and bone health, findings suggest vitamin D supplements may not have the powerful bone-protective effects expected. After a 12-week randomized control trial, no significant differences in bone turnover markers (indicators of bone formation/loss) were observed between the study subjects receiving vitamin D supplements compared to the placebo group. All 43 participants had lupus and were vitamin D deficient at the start of the trial.
While the study’s results are surprising, the investigators underscore the importance of continued research and larger trial sizes to better understand vitamin D’s role in bone health among people with lupus. They advise people to continue to follow the American College of Rheumatology’s Glucocorticoid-Induced Osteoporosis guidelines, which include optimizing vitamin D intake to help minimize bone density loss and protect against bone fractures.
Study author and member of the Lupus Foundation of America’s Medical-Scientific Advisory Council Sara Tedeschi, MD, MPH adds, “In this small randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation vs. placebo, we did not observe a difference in markers of bone turnover in the blood over 12 weeks. However, we were unable to study bone density or the risk of fractures due to the timeframe and study design. Also, all of the lupus participants in this study were required to have stable, relatively inactive lupus at the start of the study. While we did not observe an effect of vitamin D on bone turnover markers in this small trial, it remains possible that vitamin D may impact bone turnover markers, bone density, and fracture risks in different subgroups of lupus patients – specifically young, pre-menopausal women with high lupus disease activity.”
Bone density loss, osteoporosis, and bone breaks are common problems for people with lupus. Contributing factors include systemic inflammation, glucocorticoid (a class of steroid) use, lupus nephritis, premature menopause, and vitamin D deficiency. That’s why making lifestyle choices that promote bone health are especially important for people with lupus. Learn about how lupus affects the bones.