A vitamin D deficient diet increases weight gain and compromises bone biomechanical properties without a reduction in BMD in adult female mice

Brandon D. McGuire, Azra Dees, Lihong Hao, Patricia Buckendahl, Anna R. Ogilvie, Haipeng Sun, Taraneh Rezaee, Leland O. Barrett, Lamya Karim, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Nicholas T. Bello, Sue A. Shapses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vitamin D contributes to the development and maintenance of bone. Evidence suggests vitamin D status can also alter energy balance and gut health. In young animals, vitamin D deficiency (VDD) negatively affects bone mineral density (BMD) and bone microarchitecture, and these effects may also occur due to chronic ethanol intake. However, evidence is limited in mature models, and addressing this was a goal of the current study. Seven-month-old female C57BL/6 mice (n = 40) were weight-matched and randomized to one of four ad libitum diets: control, alcohol (Alc), vitamin D deficient (0 IU/d), or Alc+VDD for 8 weeks. A purified (AIN-93) diet was provided with water or alcohol (10 %) ad libitum. Body weight and food intake were recorded weekly, and feces were collected at 0, 4, and 8 weeks. At the age of 9 months, intestinal permeability was assessed by oral gavage of fluorescein isothiocyanate–dextran. Thereafter, bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The microarchitecture of the distal femur was assessed by micro-computed tomography and biomechanical properties were evaluated by cyclic reference point indentation. VDD did not affect BMD or most bone microarchitecture parameters, however, the polar moment of inertia (p < 0.05) was higher in the VDD groups compared to vitamin D sufficient groups. VDD mice also had lower whole bone water content (p < 0.05) and a greater average unloading slope (p < 0.01), and energy dissipated (p < 0.01), indicating the femur displayed a brittle phenotype. In addition, VDD caused a greater increase in energy intake (p < 0.05), weight gain (p < 0.05), and a trend for higher intestinal permeability (p = 0.08). The gut microbiota of the VDD group had a reduction in alpha diversity (p < 0.05) and a lower abundance of ASVs from Rikenellaceae, Clostridia_UCG-014, Oscillospiraceae, and Lachnospiraceae (p < 0.01). There was little to no effect of alcohol supplementation on outcomes. Overall, these findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency causes excess weight gain and reduces the biomechanical strength of the femur as indicated by the higher average unloading slope and energy dissipated without an effect on BMD in a mature murine model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106314
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


  • Bone structure
  • Diet
  • Ethanol
  • Intestinal permeability
  • Obesity
  • Vitamin D


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