A nationwide press release issued on October 18, 2023 on the occasion of World Osteoprosis Day by SOMAK together with leading experts in Slovakia emphasizes the importance of getting enough vitamin D to support good bone health, including for children. It also focuses on the need to recognize important risk factors for osteoporosis, including family history and diseases and medications that lead to bone loss. Below is a copy of the Press Release issued, in English translation:
October 18, 2023 - Bratislava
UP TO 66 MILLION EUROPEANS AT RISK OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
An estimated 66 million people in European Union countries are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.(1) Vitamin D plays an important role not only in proper bone development and nutrition but also in the prevention of respiratory diseases. The Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases Society (Spoločnosť pre osteoporózu a metabolické ochorenia kostí) therefore draws attention on World Osteoporosis Day not only to the prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency but also to related bone diseases.
The largest European Commission-funded study to date to collect published data from EU countries on vitamin D intake has confirmed the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the general population. This deficiency was found to be present even in low-latitude countries where UVB radiation was thought to be sufficient to prevent deficiency of this sunshine vitamin. “It is important to clearly define recommendations at the international level and to focus on testing specific groups of people, their treatment, prevention, and post-treatment monitoring,” explained Prof. MUDr. Juraj Payer, PhD., MPH, FRCP, Head of the 5th Department of Internal Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of Comenius University and University Hospital Bratislava and President of the Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases Society of the Slovak Medical Association.
The decrease in vitamin D in the body also increases the risk of osteoporotic fracture, therefore any treatment of a patient with osteoporosis should include not only calcium supplementation but also vitamin D supplementation. Although the exact cause of osteoporosis is not fully understood, older age or menopause in women is largely responsible for its onset. “The amount of bone mass is about 60% genetically determined. Therefore, if a mother suffers an osteoporotic fracture, there is a high risk that the daughter will also suffer from osteoporosis,” said MUDr. Soňa Dubecká, PhD., Vice-President of the Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases Society of the Slovak Medical Association and a rheumatologist at the 5th Department of Internal Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of Comenius University and University Hospital Bratislava.
According to MUDr. Dubecká, an unhealthy lifestyle also contributes to the development of osteoporosis, including inadequate nutrition or physical activity, as well as excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and smoking. Sometimes, however, the development of osteoporosis is not just a matter of genetics or lifestyle. “We have patients who have developed osteoporosis as a result of another serious illness or medication use,” she added.
Osteoporosis that develops during adulthood often has a basis in childhood. That’s why doctors urge people to ensure children and adolescents have an adequate calcium and vitamin D intake. “Calcium absorption is highest during the growth period, up to 75%. In adulthood, we can absorb only about 20 to 40% of the total calcium intake,” explained Prof. MUDr. Ľudmila Podracká, CSc., Head of the Department of Paediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine of Comenius University in Bratislava and founder of the Children’s Osteological Centre of the National Institute of Children’s Diseases in Bratislava. She also pointed out that a dairy-free diet contains only about 500 mg of calcium, which is the optimal daily intake for children under 3 years of age. Requirements increase with age, and children over 9 years of age should take up to 1300 mg of calcium daily.
Children are also affected by bone diseases, as evidenced by 8-year-old Ester. “Until she started walking, there was no indication that anything was wrong. A visit to an orthopaedist and a subsequent examination confirmed that Ester’s O-shaped feet were the result of rickets,” explained her mother Aneta Hulinová, adding that no one else in their family had been diagnosed with the disease. Thanks to the appropriate treatment, Ester’s leg curvature was completely eliminated. “Ester’s treatment is very expensive and the health insurance company granted us an exemption for it for a period of 3 months. She will have to take it at least until adulthood, if not her entire life. We are not sure yet,” concluded A. Hulinová.
(1) Cashman KD. Endocr Connect. 2022 Jan 11;11(1):e210282, https://europepmc.org/article/med/34860171