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By Elizabeth Hofheinz, M.P.H. M.Ed.

Recent research from the University of Florida (UF) has found that individuals who are obese and have osteoarthritis (OA) can benefit from vitamin D. Specifically, higher levels of vitamin D may decrease pain and improve function in obese individuals with osteoarthritis.

“Adequate vitamin D may be significant to improving osteoarthritis pain because it affects bone quality and protects cell function to help reduce inflammation. Vitamin D maintains calcium and phosphate concentration levels to keep bones strong,” said lead author Toni L. Glover, Ph.D. in the March 30, 2015 news release. Dr. Glover is an assistant professor in the UF College of Nursing, part of UF Health. “Increased pain due to osteoarthritis could limit physical activity, including outdoor activity, which would lead to both decreased vitamin D levels and increased obesity.”

The researchers analyzed blood samples for 256 middle-aged and older adults, while participants self-reported on knee OA pain. The participants also completed functional performance tasks such as balance, walking and rising from sitting to standing. Among the 126 obese participants, 68 were vitamin D-deficient while only 29 of the 130 non-obese participants were deficient.

“Vitamin D is inexpensive, available over-the-counter and toxicity is fairly rare,” Dr. Glover said. “Older obese patients with chronic pain should discuss their vitamin D status with their primary care provider. If it’s low, take a supplement and get judicious sun exposure.”


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