a1 Nutritional Sciences Division, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK
Throughout the life cycle the skeleton requires optimum development and maintenance of its integrity to prevent fracture. Bones break because the loads placed on them exceed the ability of the bone to absorb the energy involved. It is now estimated that one in three women and one in twelve men aged >55 years will suffer from osteoporosis in their lifetime and at a cost in the UK of >£1·7×109 per year. The pathogenesis of osteoporosis is multifactorial. Both the development of peak bone mass and the rate of bone loss are determined by key endogenous and exogenous factors. Ca supplements appear to be effective in reducing bone loss in women late post menopause (>5 years post menopause), particularly in those with low habitual Ca intake (<400 mg/d). In women early post menopause (<5 years post menopause) who are not vitamin D deficient, Ca supplementation has little effect on bone mineral density. However, supplementation with vitamin D and Ca has been shown to reduce fracture rates in the institutionalised elderly, but there remains controversy as to whether supplementation is effective in reducing fracture in free-living populations. Re-defining vitamin D requirements in the UK is needed since there is evidence of extensive hypovitaminosis D in the UK. Low vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk of falling and a variety of other health outcomes and is an area that requires urgent attention. The role of other micronutrients on bone remains to be fully defined, although there are promising data in the literature for a clear link between vitamin K nutrition and skeletal integrity, including fracture reduction.