Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Postgraduate Symposium

Vitamin D status and its relationship with parathyroid hormone and bone mineral status in older adolescents

Alexis M. Willetta1 c1

a1 MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Fulbourn Road, Cambridge, CB1 9NL, UK


Osteoporosis is an important contributor to the global burden of disease, and in the UK alone results in one in three women and one in twelve men aged >50 years experiencing a fragility fracture. Optimising peak bone mass in early adulthood is thought to reduce osteoporosis risk by offsetting bone losses in later life. Ensuring sufficient vitamin D status (measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) in plasma), among other factors, is believed to facilitate the achievement of optimum peak bone mass. Lower 25OHD is associated with a higher plasma concentration of parathyroid hormone (PTH). As PTH is associated with increased bone turnover and bone loss, maintenance of sufficient 25OHD is thought to have a protective effect on bone health. However, there is a lack of consensus internationally on what constitutes an optimum 25OHD concentration, and values between 30 and 80 nmol/l have been suggested. These values have been based on findings from various studies in adults in which PTH has been observed to plateau at a 25OHD concentration of >30 nmol/l; however, not all studies have found such a plateau. Although studies in younger adolescents (14–16 years) have shown an inverse relationship between PTH and 25OHD, the concentration of 25OHD required for achievement of optimum peak bone mass is unknown. The present review examines the evidence defining vitamin D insufficiency thresholds, and the relevance of such thresholds to adolescent bone health.


c1 Corresponding author: Alexis Willett, fax +44 1223 437515, email