If you have arthritis, should you take or ditch Vitamin D? Is vitamin d arthritis pain relief for real, or are you wasting your money? Right now there are 241 scientific papers on the topic listed in the US National Library of Medicine. Regrettably, the research is all over the map on this one, so let’s look at two recent studies to see if they provide clarity or muddy the waters further.
Vitamin D is more a steroid hormone than a vitamin. The most important type for humans is D3 and this helps the gut absorb calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. You also make vitamin D through sun exposure by converting cholesterol molecules. You can also get it from your diet through dairy products and certain vegetables like fish or cod liver oil, mushrooms, tofu, pork, and eggs.
The concept that Vitamin D could help arthritis relates to it’s important role in helping build strong and healthy bones. The theory goes like this, since one aspect of arthritis is it’s ability to deform bone, then taking more vitamin D may help arthritis. In my last review on this subject, I concluded that if you have moderate to severe arthritis already, popping vitamin D pills is unlikely to help, but if you’re trying to prevent arthritis Vitamin D may help. Now two new studies add new opinions to the cacophony of voices on the topic.
The first study looked at more than 3,500 published research articles on a few different strategies to protect cartilage. They concluded that while there was reasonable evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin reduced the progression of arthritis, there wasn’t clear data on the helpful effects of vitamin D in that disease. The second study looked at the issue from a different angle. The authors followed more than 400 patients who had at least one knee with arthritis for a few years, measuring vitamin D levels and taking knee x-rays. They found that low D levels were associated with a doubling of the risk of the arthritis worsening.
The upshot? What can you make of all of this scientific mumbo jumbo if you want to know if vitamin D will help your arthritis? Well, several studies do seem to show that low vitamin D levels can make your arthritis worse, but there isn’t a large study showing that taking vitamin D works well if you already have arthritis. My educated guess is that it all depends on where you catch patients. If you begin vitamin D early and before the arthritis is bad (before the bone changes set in), it’s more likely to help. If you wait until your arthritis is moderate to severe, the bone destruction ship has already sailed and it’s unlikely to help!