How vitamin D can help treat arthritis and osteoarthritis
Essential for healthy bones and general health, vitamin D is formed in the body following skin exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D can also be sourced from some foods, such as fish, eggs and fortified grain and dairy products.
Many studies have found a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In 2004, Merlino and colleagues analysed data from 29, 368 women without a history of rheumatoid arthritis and aged between 55 and 69 years of age. Eleven years later, cases of rheumatoid arthritis within the cohort group were validated against medical records. It was found that women with a higher intake of vitamin D had a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis1.
Immune system cells have vitamin D receptors, indicating immuneregulatory properties. Increasing vitamin D intake has been clinically shown to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, especially during winter when exposure to sunlight is typically reduced4.
Recent research has found that vitamin D has important biological functions within knee joint structures and can impact the progression of knee osteoarthritis. Zang and colleagues investigated serum concentrations of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]) and the parathyroid hormone which regulates vitamin D in order to predict knee osteoarthritis progression5.
Researchers concluded that study participants with both low levels of vitamin D and high concentrations of parathyroid hormone had more than a 3-fold increased risk of knee osteoarthritis progression.
Other research has found that gene polymorphisms associated with vitamin D receptors may lower immunity and increase the risk of osteoarthritis6. However, this is controversial and more research is necessary.
Vitamin D plays an integral role in supporting healthy bones and joints. Furthermore, it assists in autoimmune responses that protect against inflammation.
There is a clear correlation between reduced vitamin D availability and an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ensuring daily exposure to sunlight and eating vitamin D enriched foods can help to increase the availability of this important vitamin.
- Merlino, L. et.al. (2004). Vitamin D intake is inversely associated with rheumatoid arthritis: results from the lowa Woman’s Heath Study. Arthritis and Rheumatism. Volume 50, Issue 1, (pp. 72-7).
- Kostoglou-Athanassiou, I. et.al. (2012). Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis. Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Volume 3, Issue 6.
- Song, G., Bae, S. and Lee. Y. (2012). Association between vitamin D intake and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: meta-analysis. Clinical Rheumatology, Volume 31, Issue 12, (pp. 1733-9).
- Cutolo, M. et.al. (2007). Vitamin D in rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune Review, Volume 7, Issue 1, (pp. 59-64).
- Zhang, F. et.al. (2014). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with progression of knee osteroarthritis. American Society for Nutrition. Volume 144, Issue 12, (pp. 2002-08)
- Zhu, Z. et.al. (2014). Associations between vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms and osteoarthritis: an updated meta-analysis. Rheumatology. Volume 53, Issue 6, (pp. 998-1008).