Oral steroids linked to severe vitamin D deficiency in nationwide study

September 29, 2011, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

People taking oral steroids are twice as likely as the general population to have severe vitamin D deficiency, according to a study of more than 31,000 children and adults by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Their findings, in the September 28 online edition of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, suggest that physicians should more diligently monitor vitamin D levels in patients being treated with oral steroids.

"When doctors write that prescription for steroids and they're sending the patients for lab tests, they should also get the vitamin D level measured," said study lead author Amy Skversky, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics at Einstein and Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Einstein.

The severe assessed in this study (defined as levels below 10 per milliliter of blood) is known to be associated with osteomalacia (softening of the bones), rickets (softening of bones in children) and clinical myopathy (muscle weakness). While there is much debate on the issue, vitamin D levels between 20 and 50 ng/ml are generally considered adequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals. Steroids have been shown to cause vitamin D deficiency, possibly by increasing levels of an enzyme that inactivates the vitamin.

Smaller studies involving people often prescribed steroids (i.e., children with asthma and patients with Crohn's disease and lupus) have found significantly reduced vitamin D levels in these patients. To further assess this association between steroid use and vitamin D levels, the Einstein researchers carried out the first-ever study of a large, nationally representative sample of people.

The researchers examined data collected from participants who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2006. About one percent of the participants answered "yes" when asked if they had used during the previous 30 days.

Eleven percent of the self-reported steroid users had severely low vitamin D levels compared with a severe vitamin D deficiency of 5 percent for people not taking steroids—a two-fold increased risk for severe vitamin D deficiency. The risk was particularly pronounced for steroid users under 18, who were 14 times more likely to have a severe vitamin D deficiency compared with young non-steroid users. (Participants who reported using inhaled steroids were not included in the steroid-user group.)

Explore further: Trial tests if vitamin D pill can help asthma

Related Stories

Trial tests if vitamin D pill can help asthma

August 9, 2011
Could a simple vitamin D pill better control people's asthma symptoms when taken with regularly inhaled steroids than the steroids alone? Northwestern Medicine researchers are testing that concept with a new trial for adults ...

Recommended for you

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.