Vitamin D a No-Go for Arthritic Knees
Supplements didn't slow disease progression or ease pain, even in patients with low levels of the vitamin
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, March 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D supplements didn't relieve pain or slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis in a new study, even though the patients involved had low levels of the vitamin.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, and currently no treatment is available that will stop the loss of cartilage. Eventually, many patients are headed for knee replacements, the Australian researchers said.
"These data suggest a lack of evidence to support vitamin D supplementation for slowing disease progression or structural change in knee osteoarthritis," said lead researcher Dr. Changhai Ding, a professor at the University of Tasmania in Hobart.
The use of vitamin D supplements to reduce pain and slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis has been controversial in the past, with studies showing conflicting results, he said.
This new study put vitamin D supplements to the test by randomly assigning some osteoarthritis sufferers to receive supplements while others received a placebo. In the context of this type of definitive study, vitamin D failed to have any beneficial effect, Ding's team found.
Knee osteoarthritis affects about 10 percent of men and 13 percent of women aged 60 and older, according to background information in the report. The study was published in the March 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study findings did not come as a surprise to Dr. Neil Roth, an orthopedic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease and any medications patients take, orally or injected, won't alter the disease," he said. "The best we can do without a joint replacement is to modify some of the symptoms."
These treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers and cortisone injections, he said. These therapies do not stop the disease from getting worse and only relieve some of the symptoms, Roth said.
For the study, Ding and colleagues randomly assigned just over 400 patients with knee osteoarthritis and low vitamin D levels to monthly treatment with either 50,000 International Units of vitamin D a month or a placebo.