By Jeffrey Kopman
Osteoarthritis patients like 81-year-old Ed Charest, hoping to relieve their knee pain, will need to look further than vitamin D supplementation, according to a study in the January 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. A two-year randomized trial showed that adding vitamin D supplements to patients' diets did not reduce knee pain or cartilage volume loss.
"Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a common age-related musculoskeletal disorder that has significant functional impact and has considerable societal costs through work loss, early retirement, and arthroplasty. Despite its impact, there are no medical treatments established to influence the course of the disease," according to background information in the study. "Some studies have suggested that vitamin D may protect against structural progression."
The study, led by Timothy McAlindon, DM, MPH, of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, included 146 participants with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. The patients (average age, 62 years) received either escalating doses of a placebo or vitamin D.
Using standard pain scales system, Dr. McAlindon's team tracked changes in knee pain over the course of the study. The team also tracked cartilage volume loss measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). After two years, the results in the vitamin D group were similar to those in the placebo group.
Both groups reported an overall decrease in pain using the 0-20 pain scale. The vitamin D group reported a slightly higher average decrease in pain (-2.31) than the placebo group (-1.46), but the difference was not significant. Both groups also had a decrease in cartilage volume by about 4 percent.
"Overall data suggest that vitamin D supplementation at a dose sufficient to elevate 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels to more than 36 ng/mL does not have major effects on clinical or structural outcomes in knee OA, at least in a U.S. sample," the authors conclude.
The study follows a pattern similar to that of two separate 2012 studies regarding vitamin D use for upper respiratory infections and high cholesterol. Those studies ruled out the "sunshine vitamin" as an effective treatment for either condition. However, the vitamin continues to show promise in promoting immunity, fending off tuberculosis, and minimizing symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
"Vitamin D Not the Answer for Osteoarthritis" originally appeared on Everyday Health.