Low Vitamin D Levels not Associated with Arthritis
Vitamin D arthritis pain? Vitamin D is an important factor needed to grow strong bones. Much attention has been paid to Vitamin D lately as it’s clear that many of us living in the western world are deficient. Since this vitamin helps to grow bones, many have wondered if supplementing it might reduce painful arthritis or if patients with low vitamin D levels have less arthritis pain. A study out this past month seems to answer at least one of these important questions-patients deficient in vitamin D don’t report more arthritis to their doctors. The study looked at 805 individuals who were part of a national health system and had periodic physicals as part of that system. One concern is that the study relied on a physician making a diagnosis rather than an objective test like x-rays or MRI to determine if someone had the structural findings of arthritis. So the patients likely didn’t have arthritis pain if they weren’t diagnosed, but there’s really no way to be sure that they had arthritis pain and didn’t report it to their doctors. What was interesting was that the season of the year seemed to be associated with a higher or lower risk of developing arthritis. For example, the risk of being diagnosed in the winter with knee or hip arthritis was more than 3 times the risk of being diagnosed in the summer. Since vitamin D levels are generally lower in the winter and higher in the summer this finding still could make a case for the involvement of vitamin D. On the other hand, arthritis pain complaints tend to spike in the winter due to the cold and low pressure fronts associated with that season and tend to reduce in the warmer summer (hence the reason many retirees move to warmer climes such as Florida). The upshot? Vitamin D levels in this study don’t appear to be related to arthritis of the hip or knee. Having said that, the study wasn’t of the best design and the fact that more people get diagnosed with knee or hip arthritis pain in the winter may be suspicious and warrant further study.