Benefits of vitamins in arthritis treatment
Vitamins are important cofactors of enzymes and also help to stabilise collagen fibres. These are needed to strengthen connective tissues as part of the treatment of osteoarthritis. In addition, vitamins C, D and E are important antioxidants.
This article focuses on vitamin C osteoarthritis treatment. As arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are influenced by a diet, scientists are investigating the benefits of a vitamin-rich diet. There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may benefit individuals suffering from rheumatic diseases.
Vitamin C is often labelled as a cure for almost any aliment, including a supportive remedy for osteoarthritis. However, how beneficial this vitamin is in the treatment of rheumatic diseases is still a matter for debate. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to boost the body’s intake of this antioxidant. Any excess vitamin C is safely excreted from the body.
The vitamin C effect on knee osteoarthritis
In 2011, Peregoy and Wilder examined the influence of vitamin C on the formation of knee osteoarthritis in a total of 1,023 subjects1. The study evaluated data collected between 1988 and 2011. Patients were asked about their intake of vitamin C and underwent a radiological examination of the knees every two years.
Those patients who took vitamin C had 11% less severe knee damage compared with those without vitamin C intake. However, no direct effect of vitamin C was found on the progression of knee osteoarthritis. Ultimately, the authors did not rule out a beneficial effect of vitamin C on knee osteoarthritis. However, further studies are necessary.
Arthritis and Vitamin C: The history of scurvy
During early centuries when sailors where exploring the oceans, many suffered from a deficiency in vitamin C during long periods at sea. Known as scurvy, this nutrient deficiency caused connective tissue to breakdown. Sailors experienced malaise and lethargy.
This was often followed by the weakening of the gums and skin spots. Left untreated, scurvy can lead to death. Sailors were prone to scurvy due to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Although scurvy is rare in developed countries, there are cases seen in children with severely restricted diets. These situations are often associated with developmental or psychiatric problems. Vitale and colleagues reported on two cases of vitamin C deficiency, where the children were misdiagnosed with rheumatologic diseases2. However, once the children were treated with vitamin C, their arthritic symptoms were resolved.
Although the researchers only examined two cases, the authors point out that a vitamin C deficiency can cause quite severe arthritis. This is because degradation of articular cartilage occurs in conjunction with a deficiency in vitamin C. The researchers warn that if rheumatic symptoms are presented in childhood, a deficiency in vitamin C could be the underlying trigger.
Only two years after this report by Vitale and colleagues, another case emerged. In 2011, three patients were studied who were suffering from vitamin C deficiency in the midst of a large city in the United States3. All patents exhibited severe rheumatologic symptoms.
An in-depth survey of the patients showed an acute shortage of ascorbic acid due to lack of fruit and vegetable intake. Symptoms such as joint inflammation were easily treated when vitamin C intake improved.
The authors noted that alcoholics, or people with psychological disorders, may experience vitamin C deficiency due to their poor nutritional status. These people may present rheumatic symptoms. Thus, doctors need to clarify if a vitamin C deficiency is the principal cause of joint ailments.
Gout and the influence of ascorbic acid
Several studies have shown that vitamin C significantly altered the levels of uric acid in the blood of gout patients. A study published in 2009 suggests that vitamin C may also help to protect against the development of gout.
Choi and colleagues studied 46,994 male subjects with no history of gout at the start of the program4. In the period between 1986 and 2006, the men completed questionnaires that queried any symptoms of the disease. In addition, vitamin C intake was also recorded.
The results of the study found that men who took a higher amount of vitamin C had less risk of developing gout. A total of 1,317 subjects showed signs of gout in the course of the 20-year-long study. The researchers concluded that a vitamin C supplement could potentially help prevent gout.
Vitamin C deficiency affects about 30% of people. With this shortage there is increasingly observed inflammation of the joints. The intake of vitamin C can improve symptoms of arthritis. Vitamin C forms part of a natural basic treatment for osteoarthritis and arthritis.
- Peregoy & Wilder., 2011. The effects of vitamin C supplementation on incident and progressive knee osteoarthritis: a longitudinal study. Public Health Nutr 14 (4), 709-15
- Vitale et al., 2009. Arthritis and gum bleeding in two children. J Paediatr Child Health 45 (3), 158-60
- Mertens & Gertner., 2011. Rheumatic manifestations of scurvy: a report of three recent cases in a major urban center and a review. Semin Arthritis Rheum 41 (2), 286-90
- 4. Choi et al., 2009. Vitamin C Intake and the Risk of Gout in Men. Arch Intern Med 169 (5), 502-507