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Vitamin D As Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

vitamin D as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

A high dose of vitamin D taken by people who have rheumatoid arthritis and vitamin D deficiency can result in a significant improvement in their symptoms within a short time. That’s the consensus of a new study published online in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.


Rheumatoid arthritis and vitamin D study
The randomized, open-label study involved 150 adults who had had rheumatoid arthritis for mean of more than six years and had been taking disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for a mean of more than three years. At the beginning of the study, nearly half (49%, 73 individuals) were found to be deficient in vitamin D (serum levels less than 20 ng/mL) and to have a disease activity status score of more than 2.6.

The participants were given 60,000 IU vitamin D per week for six weeks, followed by 60,000 IU per month for a total duration of three months. Investigators evaluated vitamin D levels and disease activity among 59 (80.8%) of the vitamin D deficient patients who completed the 12 weeks of treatment and observed the following:

  • Significant improvement in disease activity score
  • Significant improvement in serum vitamin D levels from a mean of 10.05 ng/mL to 57.21 ng/mL. According to the Vitamin D Councli, a healthy level for vitamin D is 40 to 80 ng/mL

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Based on the findings of this study, the author concluded that use of vitamin D supplements in people with persistent rheumatoid arthritis and a vitamin D deficiency can result in significant improvement in disease symptoms. But this study is not the only one that has explored a relationship between vitamin D and this autoimmune disease.

A new review (October 2015) in Nature Review Rheumatology explains that researchers have identified an association between a deficiency of vitamin D and inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, the University of Birmingham reviewers noted that “the association of vitamin D deficiency with RA severity supports the hypothesis of a role for vitamin D in the initiation or progression of the disease, or possibly both.”

One thing that is unclear at this point is whether a person’s vitamin D status is a cause or consequence of rheumatoid arthritis. This and other questions concerning the relationship between this vitamin and rheumatoid arthritis are the subject of continuing investigation. Anyone with rheumatoid arthritis might consider having their vitamin D levels checked and talking to their healthcare provider about supplementation.

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Chandrashekara S and Patted A. Role of vitamin D supplementation in improving disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis: an exploratory study. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. Published online 20 Oct 2015
Jeffery LE et al. Vitamin D in rheumatoid arthritis—towards clinical application. Nature Reviews Rheumatology 2015; online 13 Oct