Research finds a majority of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are also vitamin D deficient and deficiency may worsen RA symptom severity. The most common causes of vitamin D deficiency in rheumatoid arthritis patients are insufficient intake of vitamin D from food sources, limited exposure to sunlight, and having a disorder that limits the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D in the body.
Vitamin D benefits RA patients
Vitamin D deficiency has been strongly associated with disabling symptoms among those with rheumatoid arthritis, this according to a 2012 Greek study reported in Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. This is may be due to the fact that RA can affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the foods we take in, and when vitamin D levels are low, RA symptoms and pain may worsen.
Taking in more vitamin D – thrugh supplements and increased exposure to sunlight – can help to reduce inflammation, strengthen bone cartilage, and minimize pain and risk for disability. Vitamin D supplements can also help to alleviate other symptoms of arthritic conditions.
Vitamin D prevention and risk for RA
A 2004 study, with results published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, supports the idea that vitamin D plays an important role in preventing RA. The study looked at about 30,000 women between the ages of 55-69 years who did not have a history of RA.
After 11 years of follow-up with the women, including checking vitamin D levels, 152 cases of RA were confirmed. The researchers’ findings were suggestive of an increased risk for RA in older women with lower vitamin D levels but researchers agreed the results were only preliminary.
Newer studies have disputed the claim that low vitamin D levels increase the risk for developing RA. A 2011 review in Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism looked at several studies examining the relationship between RA and vitamin D. The researchers reported they were not able to point to enough evidence to confirm low vitamin D is a risk factor for developing RA.