Could vitamin D help to keep rheumatoid arthritis at bay?

Scientists reverse conventional thinking on supplements and joint pain.

Could vitamin D ease arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that arises because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue – usually the joints – leading to painful inflammation and swelling.

The disease often affects several joints at the same time, such as the knees, hands and wrists. It inflames the lining of the joint and eventually damages the joint itself. This can lead to long-lasting pain, problems with balance, and physical deformity.

Previous studies have revealed that vitamin D has "potent anti-inflammatory effects", including the ability to suppress activity in some types of immune system cells that are known to be active in rheumatoid arthritis.

However, a new study has found that once the disease sets in, some types of cell lose their sensitivity to vitamin D.

The researchers explained that previous studies have only used immune cells isolated from blood, and so the impact of vitamin D on immune cells "at the site of active disease was unclear".

A significant feature of the new study is that it is the first to use immune cells taken from both the blood and from the inflamed joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

The researchers found that some types of immune cell responded differently depending on where they were located.

In particular, they found that some types of immune cells taken from inflamed joints were less sensitive to the anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D than those taken from the blood of the same people.

"This appears to be because immune cells from the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients are more committed to inflammation, and therefore less likely to change, even though they have all the machinery to respond to vitamin D," explains study author Martin Hewison, a professor at the University of Birmingham.

Although the study was limited to investigating cells in the laboratory, the findings would appear to support the idea that maintaining vitamin D levels might help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

However, they would also suggest that simply taking vitamin D supplements is unlikely to help people with rheumatoid arthritis because their immune cells are already desensitised.

The researchers now want to take the research further and find out why rheumatoid arthritis causes immune cells to become insensitive to vitamin D, and how this might be prevented.


Do you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis? What helps you keep the symptoms at bay?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    14th May 2018
    Yes I have RA - and I take a Vit D capsule daily - but also Red Krill Oil and a low dose prescription medication. I am watching my diet and doing light exercise and finding my hands and other joints not as painful and an improvement in mobility.
    14th May 2018
    Taking the first Vitamin D pill is not an instant cure. So, how many pills does it take and over what period before there is enough Vitamin D build up in your system to be effective?
    There are many brands and types of Vitamin D on the market. Which one are the best and the most effective?
    A blood test reveals Vitamin D deficiency, yet I haven't had one doctor who, when asked, recommended a type or brand. "Just any" they say. Well, "any" could be just sugar pills sold at retailers. How would one know?
    14th May 2018
    You could take these tablets or eat Salmon for a year and then after emptying your pockets someone will say - I guess it doesn't work for you.

    Be careful of salmon. They are mostly farmed not ocean grown so that omega-3 is not in the fish.
    For vitamin D - go for a walk in the sunshine without UV cream for 1/2 hour each day. Its free and fun.
    14th May 2018
    HS I took two Vitamin D tablets for six weeks then had another blood test and there was no indication of extra Vitamin D in my system. Obviously it takes a long time for the tablets to be effective.
    The local pharmacist told me that plain vitamin D tablets are fine provided you also have plenty of dairy foods in your diet. The main advantage of Vitamin D tablets seems to be making calcium work better for bone strength.
    Rosret is right, going for a walk, or just sitting in the sun for a while is probably just as effective as taking tablets as we do not really know what we are swallowing with these things from vitamin companies.
    14th May 2018
    Maybe Ben Hocking who wrote this article could offer more in depth information.

    Thank you Rosret and AutumnOz.
    15th May 2018
    Vitamin D3 takes quite a while to build up in your system. Mine took well over a year to get to the right levels.
    Be VERY careful of being out in the sun if you take certain RA medications. Some will state on the packaging to stay out of the sun. Even though I followed that advice, I still ended up with skin cancers. I now have to be super careful.
    For some sufferers, nothing works, even the "latest" (90's) medication called bDMARDS. There's a book written by an American Dr that really goes into diet, in a big way. In his book he states, you cannot eat farmed salmon. It must be wild caught in cold waters. He explains scientifically why it has to be. The book is called "Win the War Within" by Floyd H. Chilton. Pretty boring first up until he gets into the nitty gritty. I tried the diet. Helps! But it's not cheap to be on it. Unfortunately. Hope this helps someone.
    17th May 2018
    Have you tried turmeric? I grate the rhizome into a sieve in the teapot, add some grated ginger and black pepper and drink two cups of this a day. My specialist was surprised that I wasn't on any painkillers, with my back condition, and I put it down to the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric!
    17th May 2018
    G'day jzb
    I take Turmeric capsules every morning. I can't honestly say they're helping but my Rheumatologist said give them a go. Just in case. I'll stay on them for another 6 months before I call quits.
    Currently I'm finding that sugar is aggravating me. I'm cutting that out bit by bit.
    Just about ready to try anything! Within reason LOL

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