High Frequency of Vitamin D Deficiency in People with HIV

A number of reports in recent years have suggested an increased prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis (moderate and severe bone loss) in HIV-infected patients. In 2008, moreover, a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported a higher rate of fractures in HIV-infected individuals compared with uninfected individuals. So there is reason for concern that osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures will become major health problems for people with HIV as they age.

Here, we’re reporting on another study, released at the start of 2009, which fills in more pieces of information about bone health in people with HIV–and also provides guidance on supplementation strategies that could counteract bone loss and increased bone fracture rates associated with HIV. This research looked at fairly healthy (“ambulatory”) people with HIV visiting a Boston clinic in mid-winter and early spring months, and found a high frequency of vitamin D deficiency. Further tests linked this deficiency to a diminished ability to absorb and use calcium, the central ingredient in bone mass.

Based on their study, the investigators suggested that many people with HIV could benefit from daily vitamin D intake of at least 700-800 IU taken with 1200-1500mg of calcium, especially during the winter months, when the body does not have the opportunity to produce Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.

Our conclusion: studies are now filling in the details that allow us to conclude that osteoporosis and osteoporosis-related fractures may become an increasingly important health concern for people with HIV as they age. However, there is also growing evidence that supplementing with Vitamin D and calcium can reduce this risk to bone health. It’s therefore important for people with HIV to check their multivitamin to see if they are getting appropriate levels of these two nutrients, or add a specific Vitamin D – Calcium supplement to their diet.

NOTE: NYBC stocks Vitamin D3 (the form most readily used by the body) and Calcium Blend (a food-based vegetarian supplement which includes Vitamin D3). Also available: Bone Up (Jarrow), a supplement containing calcium, Vitamin D and other components specifically for bone health.

Reference: M. Rodriguez, B. Daniels, S. Gunawardene, and G.K. Robbins. High Frequency of Vitamin D Deficiency in Ambulatory HIV-Positive Patients. AIDS RESEARCH AND HUMAN RETROVIRUSES, Vol 25, 1, 2009.

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