A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of calcium supplementation for decreased bone density in corticosteroid-using patients with inflammatory bowel disease: a pilot study


  • This study was supported in part by PHS Grant no. MO1 RR00865. Calcium and placebo pills were provided by Marion Merrell Dow Inc (Kansas City, MO).

Dr C. N. Bernstein Section of Gastroenterology, University of Manitoba, GB445 Health Sciences Centre, 820 Sherbrook St, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3A 1R9.


Background: Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a high prevalence of osteoporosis. A number of studies have found that corticosteroid use is associated with the development of osteoporosis in these patients. Calcium supplementation may be of benefit in corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis and calcium may be a nutrient that patients with IBD lack. Aim: To test the benefit of calcium supplementation on bone density in a pilot study over a 1-year period, in a group of corticosteroid-using patients with IBD, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment study.

Methods: Corticosteroid-using patients with IBD including males over the age of 18 years and premenopausal females, were randomized to receive either calcium carbonate 1000 mg plus vitamin D 250 IU (Oscal) or an identically matched placebo. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry measurements of bone density were obtained at entry and at 1 year. At entry, and every 3 months thereafter, serum was collected for the measurement of haemoglobin, biochemistry and bone hormones. Simultaneously a 24-h urine collection was analysed for calcium excretion and creatinine clearance, and a 4-day food record was collected to document dietary calcium and vitamin D ingestion.

Results: We found a high prevalence of moderately severe decreased bone density in corticosteroid-using patients with IBD. The dose of prednisone in the year prior to study entry was inversely correlated with bone density at the hip (R=-0.67, P=0.004). At study entry serum osteocalcin was inversely correlated with corticosteroid dose in the year prior to the study (R=-0.64, P=0.02) and at study end, directly correlated with the percentage change in spine bone density (R=0.59, P=0.01). The dietary calcium intake of these patients was close to the current RDA (recommended daily intake) for premenopausal, post-adolescent adults. Calcium supplementation with small extra doses of vitamin D conferred no obvious benefit to bone density at the end of 1 year. There was no correlation between oral calcium ingestion and bone mass measurements. Both the treatment and placebo groups' bone density remained relatively stable at 1 year, suggesting that bone loss in corticosteroid-using patients may peak early into the use of the corticosteroids.

Conclusions: Calcium supplementation (1000 mg/day) conferred no significant benefit to bone density at 1 year in patients with corticosteroid-using IBD patients with osteoporosis. Future investigations should explore other therapeutic avenues that may have greater effects on increasing bone density in patients who already have considerable osteoporosis.