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Abstract

The elderly subject is prone to both vitamin D insufficiency and calcium insufficiency due to a low calcium intake and calcium malabsorption. These two alterations may lead to secondary hyperparathyroidism, and thus to increased bone loss. We investigated 72 elderly subjects (16 men and 56 women) with vitamin D insufficiency and 25 healthy elderly women with normal vitamin D status, with respect to their indices of calcium metabolism and of bone remodeling: serum total alkaline phosphatases (AP), bone AP (BAP), osteocalcin (BGP), tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP), urine hydroxyproline (HYP), and the 3-OH-pyridinium derivatives pyridinoline (PYD) and deoxypyridinoline (DPD), which are new markers of bone resorption. We then studied the modifications of these markers in the patients with vitamin D insufficiency at 3 months and 6 months after onset of a daily vitamin D and calcium supplementation. When compared with elderly subjects with normal vitamin D status, patients with vitamin D insufficiency had increased intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH) levels (60.1 ± 10.2 vs 30.2 ± 4.5, p < 0.001) and a high bone turnover as reflected by increased values of most serum and urine markers of bone remodeling. PYD and DPD levels were significantly correlated with all indices of bone turnover, unlike HYP, which showed no correlation with bone formation markers (AP, BAP, and BGP). A daily supplement of 800 IU vitamin D3 and 1 g of elemental calcium increased 25(OH)D levels and induced a dramatic decrease of iPTH levels; at 3 and 6 months, the mean iPTH level decreased by 50% (p < 0.0001), reaching the mean value of healthy vitamin D sufficient elderly women. All markers of bone turnover, except TRAP, decreased significantly at 3 and 6 months. The PYD/DPD ratio increased significantly at 3 and 6 months. The decrease of bone markers was more marked in patients with more severe hyperparathyroidism, the greatest variations being obtained with BAP (45%, p = 0.006) and DPD (43%, p = 0.036) levels. Most markers of bone remodeling are increased in elderly subjects with vitamin D insufficiency and vary with its correction. However, BAP and DPD are the most sensitive indicators of increased bone turnover due to secondary hyperparathyroidism.