The adverse effects of corticosteroids on bone mineral accretion (BMA) have been well documented. Vitamin D insufficiency, a prevalent condition in the pediatric population, has also been associated with decreased bone mineral density (BMD).
To determine whether children with asthma who have lower vitamin D levels are more susceptible to the negative effects of corticosteroids on BMD over time.
Children aged 5–12 years with mild-to-moderate asthma who participated in the Childhood Asthma Management Program were followed for a mean of 4.3 years. Total doses of inhaled and oral corticosteroids (OCS) were recorded, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels were measured at the beginning of the trial and serial DEXA scans of the lumbar spine were performed. Annual BMA rates were defined as: [(BMD at 4 years follow-up − BMD at baseline)/4 years].
BMA was calculated for 780 subjects. In boys, baseline vitamin D levels significantly modified the relationship between OCS and BMA (vitamin D x OCS interaction, p=0.023). Stratification by vitamin D levels showed a decrease in BMA with increased use of OCS in vitamin D insufficient boys only (p<0.001). Compared to vitamin D sufficient boys, vitamin D insufficient boys exposed to more than 2 courses of oral corticosteroids per year had twice the decrease in BMA rate (relative to boys who were OCS-unexposed).
Vitamin D levels significantly modified the effect of oral corticosteroids on bone mineral accretion in boys. Further research is needed to examine whether vitamin D supplementation in children with poorly controlled asthma may confer benefits to bone health.