, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 180-185

The effects of menopause and estrogen replacement therapy on the renal handling of calcium

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Mineral metabolism was studied in 99 premenopausal and 80 postmenopausal women both before and after 9–14 months of treatment with 50 µg/day transdermal estradiol. In estrogen-repleted subjects (premenopausal women and postmenopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy) total serum calcium was significantly lower (0.065 mmol/l;p<0.001) than in those who were estrogen-depleted (untreated postmenopausal women). This difference was smaller but still significant for calculated ultrafiltrable calcium (UFCa: 0.02–0.03 mmol/l;p<0.001). However, ionized calcium (both calculated and measured) was not different in the two groups of women. This finding explains why estrogen repletion does not induce changes in the serum level of intact parathyroid hormone (PTH), despite lower total or ultrafiltrable serum calcium. In a parallel study we have shown that intravenous administration of aminobutane bisphosphonate, a powerful inhibitor of bone resorption, produces similar decreases in serum calcium which were associated with significant increases in intact PTH.

Estrogen-depleted women had, on the one hand, significantly higher serum levels of bicarbonate, anion gap, complexed calcium, pH, phosphate and alkaline phosphatase, and higher rates of tubular reabsorption of phosphate and urinary excretion of calcium and hydroxyproline. On the other hand they had lower serum chloride levels and lower rates of tubular reabsorption of calcium.

Altogether these findings might indicate that estrogen deficiency decreases renal sensitivity to PTH. This is responsible for the higher serum phosphate and bicarbonate levels, the resulting mild metabolic alkalosis leading to higher serum levels of complexed ultrafiltrable calcium and higher rates of urinary excretion of calcium, but unchanged serum levels of ionized calcium and PTH.