Boning up on Vitamin D : Observational Studies on Bone and Health

Sammanfattning: The primary function of vitamin D in humans is to maintain sufficient circulating calcium concentrations. Low vitamin D levels could result in excessive calcium resorption from bone. Vitamin deficiency may therefore decrease bone mineral density (BMD), resulting in an increased risk of fracture. This thesis sought to determine the association between vitamin D intake and bone health and to estimate circulating levels of vitamin D optimal for bone health without increasing the risk for non-bone disease. Furthermore, the thesis assessed the difference in performance between common serum vitamin D assays and the genetic influence of vitamin D status. In prospective population-based cohorts, blood concentrations <40 nmol/L (lowest 5%) increased the risk of fracture in elderly men. Low levels were further associated with a slight decrease in lumbar spine BMD. Both high (>98 nmol/L) and low (<46 nmol/L) vitamin D levels were associated with higher cancer and overall mortality. In another cohort, also of older men and women, no association was found between vitamin D levels and fracture. Low vitamin D levels were weakly associated with decreased total body BMD in men but not in women. Dietary intake of vitamin D over a 20-year period in more than 60,000 Swedish women was not associated with osteoporosis or fracture, regardless of calcium intake. During summer, dietary vitamin D intake and other life style habits are of minor importance for the variation in vitamin D levels relative to sun exposure and genes. In summer time, genes explain about half  of the variation in vitamin D levels, but none of the variance in winter time. The variability between vitamin D assays was substantial. Three assays classified 8, 22 and 43% of the same study population as vitamin D insufficient if <50 nmol/L was set as the insufficiency level. Based on the results in this thesis, low 25(OH)D levels and low dietary vitamin D intake are not a major cause of fractures in community-dwelling elderly Swedish women and men. Differences in assay performance and potential negative health outcomes of high 25(OH)D levels need to be considered.