A new study has found that vitamin D supplements do not reduce pain or slow down the progression of arthritis in the knee even in patients with low levels of vitamin D. There is currently no treatment to stop the cartilage breakdown, which is common in osteoarthritis, and over time many patients undergo knee replacement surgery.
Lead researcher Dr. Changhai Ding said, “These data suggest a lack of evidence to support vitamin D supplementation for slowing disease progression or structural change in knee osteoarthritis.”
Previous research on vitamin D and osteoarthritis knee pain has yielded mixed results. The new study randomly assigned osteoarthritis patients to receive vitamin D or a placebo. The researchers found that vitamin D failed to bring any beneficial results.
Dr. Neil Roth, an orthopedic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital who was not involved in the study, commented, “Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease and any medications patients take, orally or injected, won’t alter the disease. The best we can do without a joint replacement is to modify some of the symptoms.”
Current treatment options for osteoarthritis are anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, and other forms of painkillers. These treatments only work to ease pain and do not slow down the progression of the disease.
Just over 400 patients with low vitamin D and osteoarthritis either received 50,000 IU of vitamin D or a placebo. After a two-year follow-up, neither group saw a significant reduction in pain, and those in the vitamin D group did not experience a reduction in the progression of cartilage damage.
Dr. Roth added, “That’s not to say that vitamin D doesn’t play a role in other aspects of bone health — because it does. Vitamin D is an important part of any well-balanced diet. But the notion that it is going to alter your arthritis and minimize some of the symptoms or the progression isn’t sound. I wouldn’t be taking vitamin D supplements if that’s what your goal is.”
Andrea Wong, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Coucil for Responsible Nutrition, concluded, “This study demonstrates the potential benefit of vitamin D for patients with knee osteoarthritis, as patients supplementing with vitamin D experienced pain reduction and a slightly smaller loss of cartilage over time. Even though the numbers are not statistically significant, these are positive trends that should encourage further research.”